FRISCO, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys sparked criticism on social media Tuesday after announcing a marketing agreement with a gun-themed coffee company with blends that include "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 a half-dozen people died in a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago.
It also comes a little more than a month since the Cowboys announced their role in a $400,000 donation to support 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" drew about 200 comments in the first few hours, most of them critical and suggesting the timing of the announcement was poor.
"Maybe read the room a bit, guys," one person posted, while another wrote, "The Dallas Cowboys just lost one of their biggest fans. Integrity matters."
The Cowboys declined comment.
The tweet links to a contest offering 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 consumer.
Black Rifle was founded by U.S. Army veteran Evan Hafer, who has made support of veterans one of the tenets of his company.
"BRCC is proud to partner with the Dallas Cowboys, who are strongly committed to our mission of supporting veterans, first responders, and America’s men and women in uniform," a Black Rifle spokesman said. "The long-planned announcement was timed to coincide with the Independence Day holiday — America’s Team. America’s Coffee. America’s Birthday."
Reaction to the marketing agreement 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 terms of their relationship with their more moderate fans?’"
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ steadfast support of the military was best illustrated when he was one of the most outspoken NFL owners against players kneeling during The Star-Spangled Banner before games to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
The Black Rifle brand has been popular among conservatives and gun-rights advocates, and the Salt Lake City-based company has ties to Texas. The first brick-and-mortar store opened in San Antonio, where the company has a second corporate office.