FRISCO, Texas (AP) – The Dallas Cowboys sparked criticism on social media on Tuesday after announcing a marketing deal with a gun-themed coffee company featuring blends such as “AK-47 Espresso,” “Silencer Smooth” and “Murdered Out.”
The partnership with the Black Rifle Coffee Co. was revealed on Twitter the day after more than half a dozen people died in a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago.
It also comes just over a month ago that the Cowboys announced their role in a $400,000 donation to help victims and survivors of the school shooting in Uvalde in South Texas, where 19 students and two teachers died.
The tweet announcing the agreement between “America’s Team” and “America’s Coffee” garnered about 200 comments in its first few hours, most of which were critical, suggesting the timing of the announcement was bad.
“Maybe read the room a bit, guys,” one person wrote, while another wrote, “The Dallas Cowboys just lost one of their biggest fans. Integrity matters.”
The Cowboys declined comment.
The tweet links to a game that includes two tickets to a Cowboys home game and a one-year subscription to the coffee company. Most of the company’s sales are direct to consumers.
Black Rifle was founded by US Army veteran Evan Hafer, who has made support for veterans one of the cornerstones of his company.
“BRCC is proud to partner with the Dallas Cowboys, who are deeply committed to our mission to support veterans, first responders and American men and women in uniform,” said a Black Rifle spokesperson. “The long-planned announcement was timed to coincide with the Independence Day holiday – America’s Team. American coffee. America’s Birthday.”
Response to the marketing deal suggests a “split identification among fans” of the Cowboys, according to T. Bettina Cornwell, academic director of the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center.
“For those opposed to gun violence, there is no good timing,” Cornwell said in an email. “The business question is, ‘Have the Cowboys made a misstep in their relationship with their more moderate fans?'”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ steadfast support for the military was best illustrated when he was one of the most vocal NFL owners against players kneeling during The Star-Spangled Banner before games to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
The Black Rifle brand is popular among conservatives and gun rights advocates, and the Salt Lake City-based company has ties to Texas. The first physical store was opened in San Antonio, where the company has a second headquarters.