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“Hometown Hero” stages in-arena protest of Trail Blazers ties to Leupold & Stevens

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A marine veteran is none-too-pleased with one of the Trail Blazers ad partners, and made his feelings known during a home game.

Josuee Hernandez, a US Marines veteran, has gained national notoriety after protesting the Trail Blazers partnership with Leupold & Stevens during a home game on Tuesday night.

Hernandez, who was being honored as a “Hometown Hero,” unzipped a hoodie to reveal a t-shirt that said “End This Sponsorship #NoLeupold.” while being featured on the Rose Garden’s jumbotron. The Beaverton-based Leupold & Stevens manufactures “scopes, binoculars and short optics,” and have previously been protested in the Portland area for selling scopes to the Israeli Defense Forces.

Hernandez, who is a member of Portland’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, explained his reasoning for the protest to Sports Illustrated:

“I first learned about the Trail Blazers’ contract with Leupold and Stevens shortly after the May 14th massacre in Gaza,” Hernandez said in a statement. “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?”

Predictably, the Blazers and Leupold & Stevens added their own sides to the story. They issued the following statements via KGW:

“This program honors the sacrifice and heroism by active duty military, retired military, emergency first-responders and their families. We are sorry that it was disrupted last night and will make every effort to ensure that the Hometown Heroes segment – a favorite of many Trail Blazers fans – continues to honor those who protect our safety and freedom.”

Leupold & Stevens replied with the following statement:

“Leupold & Stevens has for decades been a proud supporter of the active duty military, retired military and emergency first responders who protect the freedoms and safety we enjoy in our country. Our partnership with the Portland Trail Blazers to honor ‘Hometown Heroes’ is one of the ways we demonstrate our active commitment to America’s heroes. We will continue to operate our business in the most ethical way possible, including adherence to all international and U.S. export control laws, policies and treaties which are strictly enforced by the U.S. State Department. We will not be forced to submit to the agendas of outside organizations.”