A handful of major sponsors have ended their partnerships with the Fresno Grizzlies after the minor league baseball team aired a Memorial Day video that included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) among America’s “enemies of freedom” — alongside North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and the late Cuban president Fidel Castro.
The raisin company Sun-Maid confirmed through a spokeswoman that it is terminating its sponsorship of the Grizzlies after the team showed the video at Chukchansi Park on Monday.
“This decision is not meant to provide any political perspective whatsoever,” Sun-Maid said in a statement to The Washington Post. “It doesn’t matter which end of the political spectrum you’re on; we have taken this action as we simply believe this is the right thing to do.”
“We have discussed our position with Grizzlies management and wish them well as they manage through this matter,” Sun-Maid said.
Tecate and Dos Equis announced on Thursday night that they too were ending partnerships they had with the team.
“We do not support those views expressed in the video, that was aired during the Fresno Grizzlies game on Memorial Day,” Heineken USA, which owns both brands, said in a statement distributed by spokesman Thomas Hunt. “For that reason, we have ended this relationship, effective immediately and have let the team know of our decision.”
The Fresno Bee reported Wednesday that Sun-Maid said in a separate statement that the company was “deeply disappointed” by the incident and did “not support the views or sentiments expressed in the video.”
The decision hits close to home: Sun-Maid has deep roots in California’s San Joaquin Valley region, having been founded in Fresno in 1912. The company recently announced it would be moving its headquarters back to the city from nearby Kingsburg, Calif., where it has been based since 1964.
The Memorial Day montage featured excerpts from President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address and moving images of American veterans who fought in several wars. But in the video’s final moments, as the former commander in chief intoned, “for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people,” images of anti-fascist protesters, dictators and Ocasio-Cortez appeared on screen.
The backlash was swift, and the Grizzlies apologized.
But Ocasio-Cortez responded by saying that videos such as the one played by the team often lead to death threats and hateful messages.
The Grizzlies, the Class AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals, said in a statement early Tuesday that team officials had not seen the full video before showing it at the stadium. The team apologized for not properly vetting the video and for taking attention away from veterans.
“A pre-produced video from outside our front office was selected; unfortunately what was supposed to be a moving tribute ended with some misleading and offensive editing, which made a statement that was not our intent and certainly not our opinion,” the Grizzlies said.
The team said it was “embarrassed” and “will ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.”
In a subsequent email to The Washington Post, team spokesman Paul Braverman said the staff member responsible for the video was “remorseful” and confirmed the club was conducting an internal review of the incident.
The Post reported Thursday that the investigation detailed how a longtime team employee selected a YouTube video the employee had used for years. This version of the video, however, had apparently been edited to include footage of Ocasio-Cortez, and the employee did not watch the entire video, according to the team.
The employee “has been reprimanded,” according to the Grizzlies.
The Washington Nationals are comfortable with the results of an internal investigation, according to a person with direct knowledge of the Nationals’ thinking. The Nationals vetted the Grizzlies’ new internal protocols to ensure something similar never happens again, according to that person.
Sam Fortier and Eli Rosenberg contributed to this report.