After a year of public pressure, Portland Trail Blazers president and CEO Chris McGowan announced on Monday that the team’s partnership with the Beaverton-based scope manufacturer Leupold & Stevens has ended.
“Leupold is no longer a partner of the organization,” McGowan said. “I thank them for many years of supporting our organization. They were a great partner when they were a sponsor, but for various reasons … they’ve decided to go in a different direction.”
The partnership sparked protests throughout last season over Leupold’s sale of sniper rifle scopes to the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Ground Arm Command.
McGowan said the protests were only part of the reason that the partnership ended.
In 2017, Leupold signed a $2.72 million contract with the IDF to provide 800 of the company’s Mark-6 telescopes. In the intervening time, the IDF has come under intense criticism for its policy of using snipers to shoot protesters, medics and journalists in the ankles during protests along the Gaza border. As of this summer, IDF snipers had killed an estimated 206 Palestinian demonstrators and wounded thousands more.
During a Leupold-sponsored “Hometown Heroes” event at a Blazers game this past January, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and honoree Josuee Hernandez unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal a shirt that read, “End this sponsorship. #NoLeupold.”
That event was broadcast on live TV and the arena’s big screen.
Groups that had been calling on the Blazers to end their contract with Leupold include Portland Democratic Socialists of America, Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, Portland’s Resistance, and Jewish Voice For Peace.