Has the outdoor world abandoned YETI because of fake news? If you’re not in the know, let me get you up to speed.
Friday, April 20, 2018, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA; the lobbying arm of the NRA), issued a press release tossing social media into a tizzy and generating fake news. Titled “Florida Alert: YETI Drops NRA Foundation” and issued from Marion P. Hammer, USF Executive Director and NRA Past President, the release stated (and posted online Saturday, April 21):
For years YETI Coolers have been a hot item for sportsmen at the Friends of NRA Foundation Banquet and Auction events around the country.
These Foundation events raise money to support youth programs and educational programs nationwide. The youth of America who benefit from these programs are the future hunters, hikers, fishermen/women, bikers, campers, wildlife photographers, mountain climbers, sportsmen/women and conservationists who will protect our natural resources and recreational lands.
Suddenly, without prior notice, YETI has declined to do business with The NRA Foundation saying they no longer wish to be an NRA vendor, and refused to say why. They will only say they will no longer sell products to The NRA Foundation. That certainly isn’t sportsmanlike. In fact, YETI should be ashamed. They have declined to continue helping America’s young people enjoy outdoor recreational activities. These activities enable them to appreciate America and enjoy our natural resources with wholesome and healthy outdoor recreational and educational programs.
The NRA Foundation is 501(c)(3) non-profit, charitable organization.
In this day and age, information is power. We thought you needed this information.
Interestingly, there’s a very obvious “donate” button.
This is where the web went wild. My Facebook feed lit up over the weekend with once-YETI-lovers bashing the brand recognized for ultra-cool coolers (literally) and tumblers, a favorite especially among those who enjoy the outdoors including anglers, hunters, hikers, kayakers, and campers. Many of my Facebook friends and others on social media stated YETI, a Texas-based company, was giving into political correctness by shunning the NRA and vowed to no longer purchase YETI products and discard current items. Heck, over the weekend some already destroyed their YETI products.
But, something is missing from this statement and story.
YETI’s side of the story.
It doesn’t make sense that a company with its roots in the outdoors would alienate firearms owners.
Without considering what YETI’s side is, people jumped to conclusions because that’s the type of world we’re living in. It’s easier to get angry and spout off rather than investigate.
Because the NRA released a statement, it must be true, right? Not necessarily. As they say, there are three sides to a story – the stories of the two involved and a third story that’s somewhere in the middle and where you find the truth.
All I can think this faux outrage is the presumption the NRA is being attacked by YETI because they “declined to do business with” the organization (per NRA-ILA’s statement). By some people’s logic, this means YETI must be anti-Second Amendment.
It was/is disheartening seeing members of the outdoors community bash and boycott YETI. I understand they have that right but YETI has been good friends to the outdoors community and industry. I only own one YETI item, a custom Rambler bottle created as a fundraiser for Captains for Clean Water, a Florida-based group I have lobbied with to restore Florida’s natural water flow. The brand has also supported the Captains for Clean Water initiatives and I imagine they have helped other organizations advance their goals.
I genuinely think YETI has the best interest in heart, but it’s also a business. And sometimes, business decisions are tough to make and may not be popular.
The outdoor community turned on the brand over the weekend and it wasn’t until later in the day on Monday, April 23, did YETI make a statement on Facebook:
A few weeks ago, YETI notified the NRA Foundation, as well as a number of other organizations, that we were eliminating a group of outdated discounting programs. When we notified the NRA Foundation and the other organizations of this change, YETI explained that we were offering them an alternative customization program broadly available to consumers and organizations, including the NRA Foundation. These facts directly contradict the inaccurate statement the NRA-ILA distributed on April 20.
Further, the NRA-ILA stated in the same public communication that “[YETI has] declined to continue helping America’s young people enjoy outdoor recreational activities.” Nothing is further from the truth. YETI was founded more than 10 years ago with a passion for the outdoors, and over the course of our history we have actively and enthusiastically supported hunters, anglers and the broader outdoor community. We have been devoted to and will continue to directly support causes tied to our passion for the outdoors, including by working with many organizations that promote conservation and management of wildlife resources and habitat restoration. From our website to our film footage and from our social media posts to our ambassadors, YETI has always prominently featured hunters pursuing their passions. Moreover, YETI is unwavering in our belief in and commitment to the Constitution of the United States and its Second Amendment.
I doubt this is the end of the YETI-NRA saga, but what has been learned?
- You can’t believe everything you read, especially a press release criticizing another organization. I’ve been there and it gets ugly when another organization and their village vilifies your organization without all the facts. Do your research, get the facts.
- YETI waited too long to issue a response. Some say it’s because their statement is not true and poor attempt at damage control. Personally, and this is a wild guess, I believe they don’t have a crisis communications plan or someone to handle a crisis, which is somewhat understandable because they sell coolers, tumblers, and bottles, they are not selling a service that needs immediate attention. Looking over their website, I could not find a media contact or press releases. In fact, on their Careers page, there’s a job opening for Head of Global Operations. Presumably, that’s the type of person who would be consulted on crafting a message. I’m guessing they will be hiring a crisis PR pro. In fact, I’m strongly recommending they do so.
- The NRA is a powerful force in its ability to have its community spread inaccurate information about a brand. In my opinion, the NRA has done a very good job in instilling fear in its members that an attack on the NRA means an attack on the Second Amendment. Although the NRA lobbies government officials and the Second Amendment is part of our government, the two are separate entities. The Second Amendment will still exist if the NRA no longer existed.
- The power of social media is fierce. Social media has so many good things about it but this example is not one of them. It’s a damn shame more in the outdoors world didn’t stand/aren’t standing up for the brand and played to fear. As I’ve mentioned, YETI has been good to many in the industry and community.
- Shame on traditional media for running a press release as a news story rather than conducting their research. Media outlets should have reached out to YETI and at the least, should not have published misleading headlines. But hey, we’re in a clickbait society.
- YETI discontinued an outdated program and offered an alternative not only to the NRA but to other organizations. This is called a business decision and they are no way obligated to explain any further. We’re in a free and open market. Heck, if POTUS won’t release his tax returns then a private company does not need to release who it conducts business with and how. Yes, you are free to choose what you purchase from but will you not purchase something because another brand tells you not to or because you’ve done your research and are making your own decision?
- It will probably be hard for those who jumped on the anti-YETI bandwagon over the weekend to save face. But you know what, it’s never wrong standing up for what’s right.
I have to wonder, what does the NRA have to gain by spreading misleading information? I wonder how much money they received in donations over the weekend. Will anyone who believed the NRA release and now knows the other side feel betrayed and continue to believe them?
In the bigger picture, united we stand, divided we fall.
And those of you still dumping your YETI gear, my birthday is next week and I’ll be happy to take it off your hands 🙂
What are your thoughts? Do you stand with or against YETI?
Disclosure: I have NO affiliation with YETI whatsoever and I believe facts matter.