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I’m writing today about the announcement of Bang Energy sponsoring DCFC on both the shirt sleeve and for corner kicks. Bluntly, Bang’s brand and their money have been associated for years with many things that go against the values this club has always represented. Their CEO was an early and continuous backer of Donald Trump’s political aspirations; they hosted super-spreader events during the phases of the pandemic when we most needed to flatten the curve; they have rallied against LGBTQ+ rights. While I appreciate the practical impossibility of a completely clean sponsorship, this company in particular has made a point of taking stances that are directly counter to our club’s proud track record of standing up for what is right.
I’m especially concerned by the structure of the corner kick sponsorship. I am glad that at least some money will be going to Freedom House for each kick- they will be able to do some good with this money. But the amount being given- $50 per kick- is relatively small per mention, and effectively constitutes sportswashing of the brand. The total amount being donated will be relatively small on the scale of both Bang’s business and the amount of money they have given to antithetical causes. On the other hand, with every corner kick where the donation is mentioned on the broadcast, Bang will receive an outsized impression that they are a socially-conscious organization despite their earlier mentioned track record.
Sponsors attempting to use respected brands to sportswash is nothing new, but the soccer community’s awareness of it has only increased in more recent years. You were likely aware of the backlash that clubs like Chattanooga FC faced for the Chik-Fil-A sponsorship given that company’s own track record of attacking LGBTQ+ rights; for many of us, this is the exact same issue we railed about for so long, but come home to our own community. It left a poor taste in my mouth knowing that if I buy a kit this year, that Bang will be on it. It made what should have been an easy day 1 buy of the home jersey into a decision I’ll probably be mulling over for the rest of the week.
Especially concerning to me is that most of this information is not difficult to find if any basic vetting is attempted. A Google search for “bang energy controversy” quickly demonstrates their political affiliation and offers suggestions for follow-up searches on their CEO and founder’s behavior and track record. Being blindsided by a sponsor is one thing; this was an unforced error. I would like DCFC to review and improve the vetting of potential sponsors; if it’s too late to fix this for 2022, let’s use this as a chance to grow and make sure it’s never an issue again going forward. What we have built as a community is going to be attractive to many companies that would like to use it to repair their own image. As we continue to grow into a club that will be passed down for generations, it only becomes more important that our goodwill is not spent on those who would work against our own values.