Congress

Sponsor drops baseball team over video calling AOC ‘enemy of freedom’

Raisin company Sun-Maid cuts ties with the Fresno Grizzlies after an unvetted Memorial Day video sparks controversy

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., at an April 9 hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. A minor league baseball team in Fresno lost one of its sponsors after it played a video that showed her image alongside a speech by Ronald Reagan warning against the “enemies of freedom.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Raisin company Sun-Maid cut ties with a minor league baseball team after it played a video at its Memorial Day game drawing comparisons between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and controversial figures including despots Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Un.

The company has been a part of the San Joaquin Valley for many years, where the Fresno Grizzlies play, but on Wednesday Sun-Maid issued a statement saying it was “disappointed” and terminating sponsorship of the team, the Fresno Bee reported.

[Baseball team apologizes for video calling AOC ‘enemy of freedom’]

“Sun-Maid does not support the views or sentiments expressed in the video, nor does it condone the airing of it,” the company told the Bee. 

Signage for the raisin company was prominently displayed at the team’s Chukchansi Park stadium. Its logo has been removed from the baseball team’s online list of corporate partners.  

The video featured an image of the freshman Democrat — a frequent target of conservatives because of her advocacy for programs such as a Green New Deal to combat climate change — superimposed over audio of a speech given by President Ronald Reagan warning against the “enemies of freedom.” 

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For most of the three-and-a-half minute video, Reagan’s 1981 inaugural speech played over soaring music and images representing the U.S. military: Arlington National Cemetery, a flag-draped casket and fighter jets taking off into the air.

But around the three-minute mark, as Reagan begins to admonish the “the enemies of freedom” and “those who are potential adversaries,” the video shows a series of images, including anti-fascist protests, Cuban leader Castro, Korean leader Kim and then Ocasio-Cortez.

The team apologized after the video was played, saying it had not been properly vetted before it was shown in the stadium.

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“The video was not produced, created or commissioned by the Fresno Grizzlies. It was carelessly taken from YouTube,” the team said in a second apology Wednesday.

The Fresno Grizzlies became a Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals this year, the Bee reported.

The D.C. Major League Baseball franchise has faced some pressure to take action against the team, including a Washington Post sports column titled  “If Fresno Grizzlies don’t fire someone for Ocasio-Cortez video, the Nationals must.”

The Grizzlies said the team has publicly apologized to Ocasio-Cortez.

“Regardless of your political viewpoint, we believe that all people who dedicate their lives to public service deserve respect,” the team said in a Wednesday statement.  

On Tuesday the New York Democrat acknowledged the video, warning of the “hateful messages” and the death threats they inspire.

“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,” she said.  “All of this is to say that words matter, and can have consequences for safety.”

Emily Kopp contributed to this report.

 

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