The Portland Trail Blazers basketball team on Friday denied that it had bowed to anti-Israel boycott activists by ending a relationship with a company that does business with the Israeli military.
The Oregon-based Leupold & Stevens company produces rifle scopes used by the Israel Defense Forces.
The company had partnered with the Trail Blazers in a “Hometown Hero” program which honored US service members, first responders and others during the team’s home games. The team had faced pressure from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists against Israel to end the partnership.
Leupold & Stevens and the Trail Blazers severed ties late last month in a move celebrated by BDS supporters.
On Friday the team denied that it had ended the relationship due to anti-Israel pressure.
A statement posted to the team’s Twitter feed said: “Leupold’s sponsorship contract officially expired at the end of last season and Leupold & Stevens made the decision not to renew. Their decision was business-related and not influenced by external pressure as being reported by certain media outlets. Leupold & Stevens was a great partner and we wish them success for the future.”
Statement by Portland Trail Blazers regarding Leupold & Stevens partnership pic.twitter.com/ToTHMZ1idb
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) October 11, 2019
The left-wing Portland Democratic Socialists of America, which pressured the team to sever ties with the company, mocked the statement on Twitter.
— Portland DSA (@PortlandDSA) October 11, 2019
The B’nai B’rith Jewish organization slammed the Trail Blazers in a Friday statement, accusing the team of “bowing to pressure from BDS activists.”
The Trail Blazers defeated Israel’s Maccabi Haifa in a preseason game in Portland on Thursday.
The NBA, known for being the most liberal of major US sports organizations, is currently embroiled in a dispute with China after the general manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters.