When the Hapoel Tel Aviv basketball team opens its 2022-2023 season on September 19, there will be vegan hotdogs and vegan pizza alongside the usual omnivorous offerings for sale at the stadium’s food stands.
It’s part of the team’s new look under sponsorship from Vegan Friendly, an Israeli organization that works to promote veganism and animal rights.
“Our goal isn’t to change the whole place to vegan, but to add vegan foods,” said Omri Paz, founder of Vegan Friendly. “Hotdogs, for instance, are not the healthiest item out there.”
“The season is long and we’ll see how it goes,” said Paz.
With Vegan Friendly the team’s main sponsor, thanks to the NIS 1 million it forked over, Hapoel is now known as Hapoel Vegan Friendly Tel Aviv, and its vegan allegiances will stretch beyond what’s served at the fast food counters during games.
Vegan Friendly’s dark pink seal will appear on the team’s uniforms and around the new Shlomo Group Arena. The team and organization will eventually host some joint events and there will be changes in the players’ diets.
“It’s not conventional, but Hapoel Tel Aviv is always in favor of nonconventional things,” said Rami Cohen, chairman of Hapoel Vegan Friendly Tel Aviv. “We have a lot of vegans in our fan base.”
It makes sense that a Tel Aviv franchise would be one of the first to welcome vegan sponsorship, given the city’s status as a vegan capital of the world.
Call it a slam dunk for the activist group.
About 6,700 members of Vegan Friendly’s Vegan Active activist group collectively donated close to a million shekels toward the Hapoel Tel Aviv season sponsorship.
“It’s like crowdfunding. Each member decides what they want to give,” said Paz. “Every few months, we have a new campaign and this time, it’s Hapoel Tel Aviv.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv was the first team that Paz turned to with the idea of a Vegan Friendly sponsorship; he and Cohen said the two organizations had an instant connection.
“We have other sponsors,” said Cohen. “You’re always looking for funding, from your audience and sponsors. But this is the right kind of connection; veganism is a way of life, just like sports, and it makes for an interesting and fun collaboration for us.”