The Grizzlies are in their first season as the Class AAA affiliate of the Nationals.
The Nationals received the Grizzlies’ findings Wednesday night, detailing how a longtime Fresno 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 alongside that of foreign leaders such as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and former Cuban president Fidel Castro. The employee did not watch the entire video, according to the team.
The Grizzlies staff member responsible for selecting the video was “remorseful,” team spokesman Paul Braverman told The Washington Post in an email, and the team believes it was a mistake and not politically motivated. The employee “has been reprimanded,” according to the Grizzlies. The Nationals vetted the Grizzlies’ new internal protocols to ensure something similar never happens again, according to the person familiar with Washington’s thinking.
“What was supposed to be a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country was overshadowed by a grievous error for which we are truly sorry,” the Grizzlies said in a statement. “The criticism we have received is deserved.”
The video was played between a doubleheader Monday at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, Calif., a city in the heart of the state’s more conservative Central Valley. Former president Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address provided the soundtrack to patriotic images honoring veterans.
A Fresno Bee reporter tweeted about the video, which included what the Grizzlies later described as “offensive content” — images of Ocasio-Cortez among the “enemies of freedom.”
“As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people,” Reagan said as a photo of Ocasio-Cortez flashed across the screen between images of dictators. “We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it. We will not surrender for it, now or ever.”
The Grizzlies publicly apologized to Ocasio-Cortez, who responded Tuesday on Twitter.
“What people don’t (maybe do) realize is when orgs air these hateful messages, my life changes bc of the flood of death threats they inspire,” she wrote. “I’ve had mornings where I wake up & the 1st thing I do w/ my coffee is review photos of the men (it’s always men) who want to kill me.”
On Wednesday evening, the raisin company Sun-Maid, a major sponsor with deep local roots, ended its partnership with the Grizzlies, the Fresno Bee reported. Sun-Maid said it was “deeply disappointed” by the incident.
“Sun-Maid does not support the views or sentiments expressed in the video, nor does it condone the airing of it,” the company said in a statement. “While the Grizzlies have apologized for this mistake, we are standing on the side of what we believe is right and terminating our sponsorship of the team.”