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The Cowboys Could Have Partnered With Any Brand. Why Black Rifle Coffee Company?

Online pushback noted the announcement, following the Uvalde and Highland Park shootings, was badly done

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Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (77) blocks during the Dallas Cowboys OTA Offseason Workouts on June 2, 2022 at The Star in Frisco, TX.
The Dallas Cowboys
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Courtney E. Smith is the editor of Eater Dallas. She's a journalist of 20 years who was born and raised in Texas, with bylines in Pitchfork, Wired, Esquire, Yahoo!, Salon, Refinery29, and more. When she's not writing about food, she co-hosts the podcast Songs My Ex Ruined.

America’s Team made a pretty definitive statement about which America it is siding with this week. Only Tuesday, July 5, the Dallas Cowboys rolled out an announcement that the team would partner with Salt Lake City’s Black Rifle Coffee Company, which styles itself as “America’s coffee,” to give away tickets to a home game and a year of access to the company’s coffee subscription.

It has gotten pretty well ratioed with comments and quote tweets, including some that point out that just over a month ago, the team shared their condolences to families of victims of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and others noting that the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, just happened on the Fourth of July, killing seven and injuring over 30 people. Stepping into a partnership with a company that names some of its blends after various types of guns and paraphernalia (see: the AK Espresso, Gunship, Silencer Smooth) didn’t send the message that its support was sincere or grounded in a commitment to gun reform, critics say.

That is a serious complaint, especially as the state and local authorities are still sorting through what went wrong in Uvalde, and the state faces the continual loosening of gun restrictions, which the majority of Texans don’t want.

Conservatives have volleyed back that Black Rifle is “just coffee,” and the company supports veterans and the police, so everyone who is up in arms about this can STFU.

Black Rifle is MAGA’s favorite coffee chain by design. The physical stores are exclusively in suburban and rural areas— no locations in Dallas, Arlington, or Frisco. The nearest Black Rifle Dallasites will find is in Plano, and beyond that, you’ll have to head to North Richland Hills or Benbrook to get a cup.

Black Rifle, with shares up 30 percent on their first day of trading on Wall Street back in February, leads with its support for law enforcement (see: the blend named Thin Blue Line) and the military. And the language on its website is loaded with dog whistle phrases, including “Black Rifle Coffee Company serves coffee and culture to people who love America” and a brag about how its “journalists” cover everything from “embedding with troops everywhere from Iraq and Afghanistan to Ukraine, or covering civil unrest across America” in the brand’s Coffee or Die magazine. It also has podcasts, a YouTube channel, and two blogs — other than the blogs, Starbucks and Dunkin’ don’t offer any of that. In the past, the company has also sponsored the podcasts and YouTube channels of far-right talking heads. So, it’s not just coffee that Black Rifle is creating.

Jerry Jones issued a statement on Tuesday, July 5, in conjunction with the announcement. “Every cup of coffee in the stadium, every bag of Cowboys coffee sold, represents a step in fulfilling the Black Rifle mission — another veteran employed, another first-responder receiving support, or another community event to help adaptive military athletes thrive in the civilian world,” Jones said. “We support military members and first responders year-round.’’

In a statement shared with the New York Times, founder and chief executive of Black Rifle Coffee, former Green Beret Evan Hafer, said the two entities “share an unwavering commitment to supporting veterans and first responders and we look forward to a successful partnership and a great season.” It also reports that Hafer said the partnership was plotted out some time ago and set to go live in conjunction with Independence Day. Neither Jones nor Hafer addressed why the announcement couldn’t be held for a more suitable time.

In a 2021 profile by the Times, Hafer, a vocal supporter of former President Trump who embraced the Big Lie before the January 6 insurrection, has been trying to distance his company from white nationalist and far-right extremists since. But shaking off the culture war the company waded into while maintaining its pro-guns, pro-police, pro-military stance has been slow going.

When Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged with and found not guilty of reckless homicide and use of a deadly weapon after shooting three protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, posted a photo of himself in a Black Rifle t-shirt after being released on bail in November of 2020, the company moved to distance itself. The company said, “We do not sponsor nor do we have a relationship with the 17-year-old facing charges in Kenosha, WI.” A few months later, an insurrectionist at the Capitol was wearing a Black Rifle cap. “...There are things in business, when you grow, that are completely outside your control,” is how Hafer explained that to the Times.

There are more direct ways for a multi-million dollar organization like the Cowboys to support veterans’ causes and the police if that is the goal: a large donation to the Dallas Veteran’s Hospital, working with any number of local veteran’s affairs groups, or using their money and power to lobbying Congress to clean up the issues and funding for Veteran’s Affairs if the Cowboys and Jones want to affect real change that would benefit the maximum number of American veterans.

Even if Hafer didn’t expect his coffee’s fan base to become quite so extreme, Jones knew exactly who they are now and decided to link the Cowboys to that brand anyway. It sends a strong message about who the Cowboys organization and Jones think “real Americans” are. Apparently, they’re people who live near a Black Rifle Coffee Company shop, not Dallasites.

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