The Portland Trail Blazers basketball team has ended its partnership with Leupold & Stevens, an optics manufacturer that supplies equipment to the US and Israeli armies.
“Leupold is no longer a part of the organization,” Chris McGowan, the NBA team’s president and CEO, stated on Monday.
McGowan did not say why the team had cut its ties to Leupold, but human rights campaigners declared victory after Monday’s announcement.The Blazers had come under pressure to cut ties with Oregon-based Leupold & Stevens over Israel’s use of its equipment while killing and maiming unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
In 2017, the Israeli army bought some 800 Leupold Mark-6 sniper rifle telescopes, a deal worth an estimated $2.9 million.
A photo published by the Israeli military shows a Leupold scope affixed to the rifle of an army sniper at the Gaza-Israel boundary during the inaugural Great March of Return protests on 30 March 2018.
At least 18 Palestinians were fatally wounded during that first day of protests. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed during Great March of Return protests since their launch.
Olivia Katbi Smith, co-chair of Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, one of the groups that called on the Blazers to drop Leupold, stated on Monday that “apartheid has no business in Portland, including in our sports and entertainment.”
Portland DSA is calling on the Blazers to cancel a 10 October game with the Israeli basketball team Maccabi Haifa.
“Sport is a political tool for the occupation,” the group stated.
“Palestinian players are subject to the same restrictions and degradations as all Palestinians; they cannot get to games due to checkpoints, they are banned from training facilities,” Portland DSA added.
“The conditions for Palestinians within Israel and the occupied territories impress upon us all the need to act.”