In the wake of the Florida school shooting, US bike advocate Aaron Naparstek is calling for a boycott of Giro, Bell, Camelbak, CoPilot and other bike brands owned by Vista Outdoor, one of America’s largest ammunition makers. This $3bn company is also a corporate supporter of the gun lobby’s mouthpiece, the National Rifle Association, he said.
"The same company that manufactures your CoPilot rear-rack child bicycle safety seat also produces the SavageArms MSR 15 Patrol assault rife," tweeted Naparstek last night.
He added: "It’s just jarring to me that when I bought @GiroCyclingUK, @BellBikeHelmets, @CamelBak and CoPilot products, I put money in the pockets of a domestic arms dealer."
Vista Outdoor is a holding company that owns gun brands that make ammunition, guns and gun accessories.
Bicycling friends: Did you know that @Giro, Bell, @CamelBak, Copilot and a few other bike gear brands that you may enjoy are owned by @VistaOutdoorInc, America's largest manufacturer of ammunition? https://t.co/BGXEjEvgvo
— Aaron Naparstek (@Naparstek) February 21, 2018
Naparstek notes that "One of @VistaOutdoorInc’s other brands, @FederalPremium Ammunition, is a major sponsor of [the TV station of the National Rifle Association.]
"Moreover, @VistaOutdoorInc is an avid supporter of the NRA and its company officials sit on the board of the NSSF, the quietly powerful gun industry lobbying group working on things like the loosening of state regulations for concealed carry permits."
A series of tweets posted by Naparstek last night have since been "liked" and retweeted hundreds of times, leading to fears that any consumer boycott could gain traction.
"Boycotting Vista’s bicycle brands could really hurt them," claimed Naparstek.
Naparstek is a long-time bicycle advocate, and founder, in 2006, of US transportation news site Streetsblog.
Bell, Giro, and Blackburn were bought for $400m by Vista Outdoor in February 2016.
At the time, Vista Outdoor CEO Mark DeYoung (who was also CEO of Savage Arms) said: "This acquisition is consistent with our strategic growth objective of becoming a world-leading outdoor sports and recreation products company."
He is no longer with the company but, at one time, he was America’s highest-paid gun company executive, earning $13.2 m in 2015, reports Mother Jones.
As reported on BikeBiz in October last year, the current Vista Outdoor CEO is Christopher T. Metz.
Former UK chancellor George Osborne is paid £650,000 a year for working one day a week for BlackRock, the second largest investor in Vista Outdoor. BlackRock therefore owns 12 percent of a bunch of cycle and outdoor brands, so its extremely well-paid British advisor, who also finds time to edit the London Evening Standard, is playing a small but politically significant part in funding America’s National Rifle Association.
BikeBiz was the first to report on this boycott threat. Now many other fine media outlets have also since covered it.
In particular, there’s a stand-out piece from Outside which asked three ethics professors about the moral obligations brands have to tell consumers about their parent companies.
The professors also discuss how consumers should approach the moral and ethical maze of having a favourite brand that happens to be "part of a larger corporation that owns other brands that don’t align with their personal beliefs."
And it’s not just consumers boycotting Vista Outdoor’s bike brands, some bike shops have also said they will join in.
Washington D.C.’s multi-brach store BicycleSPACE has said it will no longer stock Vista Outdoor brands:
— BicycleSPACE (@BicycleSPACE) February 24, 2018
Sellwood Cycle Repair and Gladys Bikes – both of Portland, Oregon – have also revealed they would no longer be stocking Vista Outdoor’s bike brands.
On Facebook, Gladys Bikes said there were more important things in life than making money.
"Of Vista’s many brands, we currently only stock Giro helmets, and we had just placed a fairly sizable (for us) order with them. I’m not going to lie: This puts us in a tricky place financially. That said, there are a lot of things that are more important than money (for instance: human life); we’re committed to finding a way to not support them moving forward."
Bike Portland reports that other regional bike stores are also joining in, or mulling whether to do so.
However, taking a moral stand isn’t so easy if a store is invested deeply in inventory.
Co-owner of Metropolis Cycles Nathan Roll told Bike Portland that his shop stocks Giro, Blackburn and Bell products.
“We are deeply dismayed by [the] news, and are trying to determine how to proceed," said Roll.
"We were previously unaware of Vista’s connection to and support of the NRA. I personally find the NRA’s rhetoric and actions reprehensible and disgusting, and would happily cut ties with anyone that supported them, but as the owner of a business, it’s not that easy, for several reasons.
"The simplest is that we have thousands of dollars of their merchandise already in stock, and have committed to buying thousands more through the course of the coming year.
"In addition, we have a relationship with the brands and their employees, none of whom had a say in who purchased their employer. Some of them are our friends and neighbours, and this clearly affects their livelihoods.
"We are currently re-evaluating our relationship with Vista Sports, but … the bicycle business is hardly lucrative, especially for small neighbourhood shops like us, and we can’t afford to give away product, or even discount it deeply in an effort to unload it. The Giro/Bell duo is also by far the largest player in the domestic helmet market, and though there are alternatives, we will have to consider them carefully before making any decisions.”