Last weekend in Charlottesville, hundreds of people espousing white nationalist, neo-Nazi and Klux Klux Klan ideology marched in the dark through the University of Virginia campus spewing racist taunts while illuminating the night with tiki torches in hand.
Until then, the fire-tipped poles were mostly associated with backyard barbecue ambiance, kitschy Polynesian luaus and mosquito-repellent. Now, tiki torches are among the growing list of products and logos being used by white nationalists.
Corporations, in a bid to protect their brands and images, have been quick to denounce the groups.
“TIKI Brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed,” the company wrote Saturday on its Facebook page. “We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way.”
In just the last year, half a dozen name brands or companies have had to publicly distance their products — including New Balance tennis shoes and Fred Perry polo shirts — from white nationalist groups after official, or unofficial, endorsements from its followers.
Detroit Red Wings
Along with their tiki torches, some “Unite the Right” marchers in Charlottesville also carried signs that replicated the logo of the Detroit Red Wings, one of the most popular teams in the National Hockey League. The team’s logo, altered slightly to incorporate Nazi imagery, is the apparent symbol representing a group from Michigan called the Detroit Right Wings, reported CNN.
In a sharp statement posted to social media and its website, the team said that the Detroit Red Wings “vehemently disagree with and are not associated in any way” with the Charlottesville rally, which was organized to oppose the removal of a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
“The Red Wings believe that hockey is for Everyone and we celebrate the diversity of our fan base and our nation,” the team statement said. “We are exploring every possible legal action as it pertains to the misuse of our logo in this disturbing demonstration.”
The NHL also weighed in, writing in a statement that the organization is “obviously outraged by the irresponsible and improper use of our intellectual property” at the rally.
“This specific use is directly contrary to the value of inclusiveness that our League prioritizes and champions,” the league said, adding that it would take “immediate” steps to reclaim the logo and “vigorously pursue other remedies.”
Late Sunday night, the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer was put on notice by GoDaddy, the Web hosting company that houses its domain. In a statement to The Washington Post, GoDaddy said that a post on the website disparaging Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed Saturday during the Charlottesville rally, could “incite more violence,” which violated its terms of service.
Heyer was among the hundreds who converged on Charlottesville to counterprotest the white supremacist rally. She died, according to police, after James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, drove his vehicle into a crowd of people. He has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and another count related to the hit-and-run, authorities said.
GoDaddy, after months of criticism for giving the anti-Semitic website a platform for hate speech, said it had given the Daily Stormer 24 hours to move the domain to another provider before it canceled service.
In November of last year, just days after President Trump won the White House, the Daily Stormer’s founder, Andrew Anglin, declared New Balance tennis shoes the “Official Shoes of White People.” Anglin said New Balance was the “uniform” of the alt-right, an umbrella term for those holding white supremacist and white nationalist ideals, because the company had praised Trump’s support for a trade policy stance.
“It’s time to get on-board with New Balance now,” Anglin wrote. “Their brave act has just made them the official brand of the Trump Revolution.”
The company quickly released a statement rejecting the assertion: “New Balance does not tolerate bigotry or hatred in any form…New Balance is a values-driven organization and culture that believes in humanity, integrity, community and mutual respect for people around the world.”