Portland, Oregon – A one-man surprise protest in the middle of the Portland Trail Blazer Game. During the 2nd quarter of last night’s game at the Moda Center there was suppose to be a special moment honoring a local veteran from Portland, who served in the Marine Corps and helped protect Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But video posted on youtube shows what happened next, when Sgt. Josh Hernandez stood up to be recognized. Hernandez opened his jacket to reveal a t-shirt he was wearing that read:
“#NoLeupold END THIS SPONSORSHIP.”
Leupold who makes rifles and scopes was the sponsor of that moment honoring him. He’s a member of the group Democratic Socialists of America.
Here’s what he says in a written statement sent to KXL:
Josuee Hernandez’s Statement Regarding Tonight’s Protest
My name is Josuee (Josh) Hernandez, and I’m the veteran who protested against the Blazers contract with Leupold and Stevens on November 6th. I served five years in the United States Marine Corps.
I first learned about the Trail Blazers’ contract with Leupold and Stevens shortly after the May 14th massacre in Gaza. That day, sharpshooters from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) murdered sixty people and injured thousands others. Like most people, I found it sickening that the IDF would have such little regard for human life, for protesters with a legitimate cause grounded against a decades-long colonialism effort done by the Israeli state. I felt powerless because I’d done so little to combat this injustice. How could such an atrocity be allowed to happen?
Thanks to organizations like the Portland DSA and Jewish Voice for Peace, it came to my attention that elements in my home state of Oregon were not just passively accepting of these horrors, but actively complicit in them. Last year, Beaverton-based company Leupold and Stevens signed a millions dollar contract with the IDF to supply them with sniper scopes; according to sources, they’re the “telescopic sight of choice for ground force snipers.” I suppose when murdering people, one should have the best accessories to choose from, and it appears Leupold and Stevens have made a name for themselves in that department.
Perhaps to avoid well-deserved criticism and siphon some local goodwill, Leupold and Stevens have also stained the Trail Blazers by sponsoring a dog-and-pony show called “Hometown Heroes,” a halftime event wherein local veterans and first responders are gifted some binoculars and then projected on a giant screen in an effort to “honor” them for their service.
Fellow veterans, be wary of how businesses like Leupold and Stevens exploit our identity under pretense of adulation to obfuscate their profiteering from massacres. We should not feel honored by being gifted a bag of trinkets and then paraded in front of an audience, giving away the type of social capital the Leupold and Stevens advertising team salivates for. We should not allow our experience as veterans to be reduced to moralistic spectacle, to cover the fact that the Trail Blazers are in business with a corporation that profits from killing people.
Veterans need more than these empty displays of recognition for the most privileged of us. However well-intentioned their partnership with Leupold and Stevens, if the Trail Blazers want to truly honor those who put service before self, they could work with veterans advocacy groups like Veterans for Peace, who not only assist veterans on issues like homelessness, unemployment and mental health, but work to end the cause of many veteran ills in the first place; that is, war itself. They could work with the local Department of Veterans Affairs, whom many veterans depend on for assistance after active duty but which is still underfunded amidst a military-industrial complex eager to cycle and replace able-bodied people.
The Blazers have done a lot of good for our community. With other, less morally questionable companies (because in the presence of Leupold and Stevens, even Wells Fargo appears saintly), they’ve funded grants and scholarships to local youth and schools. Still, it is cruelly ironic that they’ve done such public good in the same month that snipers have been spotted using the scopes of business partners Leupold and Stevens to murder children in Gaza.
I don’t suspect that Leupold and Stevens will stop their war profiteering. Until they prove otherwise, they’re a soulless corporation that could more than make ends meet by simply selling binoculars, apparel, and other accessories to civilians but continue to supply murderers. I would hope, however, that the Trail Blazers choose to stop making business with such a corporation.
Thus, because Leupold and Stevens was so keen to use me to exploit the local goodwill of a generally progressive and anti-war city, it was only right that I use their platform to deliver an anti-war message. I’m asking the Trail Blazers to adjust their moral compass and no longer work alongside war profiteers. It honestly, truly, is that simple. I’m assuming good faith with my fellow Blazers fans, season ticket holders and fair-weather fans alike. We should expect more from our team besides beating Lebron and the Lakers. We should expect that the Trail Blazers should not partner with a company that profits from war crimes.
Josuee Hernandez is a lifelong resident of Portland, Oregon. They are currently a member of Portland Democratic Socialists of America.