Who owns Black Rifle Coffee Company? Conservative brand disowns 'racist, Proud Boy-ish people'
“A veteran-owned coffee company serving premium coffee to people who love America,” is how the brand describes itself. The patriotic package design features stars on a blue banner. One of their products is even called “Liberty Roast”. Black Rifle Coffee Company, down to the last bit of branding, all but hugs the conservative target audience it wants to woo. Yet, the company seems to have only attracted ire from the same crowd.
On July 16, conservative journalist and provocateur Andy Ngo tweeted, “‘It’s such a repugnant group of people.’ The executives behind @blckriflecoffee, a coffee and lifestyle brand hugely popular with conservatives, has some choice words to describe part of its customer base.” He wasn’t alone in criticizing them. “How to destroy your company in one easy step: give an interview to the New York Times trashing your customers,” Raheem Kassam, editor in chief at the right-wing outlet, The National Pulse, wrote on Twitter.
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“It looks like Black Rifle Coffee, a company which became famous because of conservatives, is now trying to distance themselves from conservatives. I never tried their products before and it looks like I never will,” Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the conservative group ACT for America, tweeted. Right-wing political commentator and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich said, “Black Rifle Coffee takes a knee in a far-ranging NYT interview,” referring to the symbolic gesture against racism.
“It’s such a repugnant group of people.”— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) July 16, 2021
The executives behind @blckriflecoffee, a coffee and lifestyle brand hugely popular with conservatives, has some choice words to describe part of its customer base. https://t.co/BxTpq0kfQY pic.twitter.com/mbdrBSpwGs
How to destroy your company in one easy step: give an interview to the New York Times trashing your customers. pic.twitter.com/0qF6XMP5e8— Raheem J. Kassam (@RaheemKassam) July 17, 2021
It looks like Black Rifle Coffee, a company which became famous because of conservatives, is now trying to distance themselves from conservatives.— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) July 17, 2021
I never tried their products before and it looks like I never will.
Black Rifle Coffee takes a knee in a far ranging NYT interview, where they claim St Michael is a white supremacist symbol according to “a friend in the Pentagon,” and that those who believes Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self defense are racists to be “flushed down the toilet.” pic.twitter.com/IoGE3dOcHc— Cernovich (@Cernovich) July 17, 2021
Who owns Black Rifle Coffee Company?
Jason Zengerle, in a New York Times long read published on July 14, profiled the conservative brand and its founders. And the founders -- Mat Best, Evan Hafer, and Jarred Taylor -- had many things to say about its customer base; not all of it was good. Hafer, a former Green Beret and CIA. contractor who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, is the CEO; Best, a former Army Ranger, is the executive vice president; and Taylor, a former Air Force staff sergeant, is executive vice president for partnerships.
Per Zengerle, the company started in 2014, “became the unofficial coffee of the MAGA universe, winning public endorsements from Sean Hannity and Donald Trump Jr.” But the brand’s products soon began showing up at unsavory places. Popularly dubbed the “zip-tie guy”, Eric Munchel, a January 6 rioter wore a baseball hat with an image of an assault rifle silhouetted against an American flag sold by Black Rifle. When Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager who is charged in the fatal shootings of two people at a Black Lives Matter protest in August 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was released on bail in November, his first post-jail photo showed him wearing a Black Rifle T-shirt.
“I would never want my brand to be represented in that way, shape, or form,” Hafer told the Times of Munchel, “because that’s not me.” The coffee company “is much bigger,” Hafer said, than “a hat in the [expletive] Capitol.”
In the profile, the Times reported that Hafer wondered aloud: “How do you build a cool, kind of irreverent, pro-Second Amendment, pro-America brand in the MAGA era, without doubling down on the MAGA movement and also not being called a [expletive] RINO by the MAGA guys?” Hafer, on more than one occasion also told Zengerle, “I’m a man without a party now.”
But the real part of the profile that seems to have angered rightwingers is the founders’ comments on its customer base. “You can’t let sections of your customers hijack your brand and say, ‘This is who you are,’” Best said. “It’s like, no, no, we define that.” Hafer said, “It’s such a repugnant group of people. It’s like the worst of American society, and I got to flush the toilet of some of those people that kind of hijacked portions of the brand.”
“The racism [expletive] really pisses me off,” Hafer said. “I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base. I would gladly chop all of those people out of my [expletive] customer database and pay them to get the [expletive] out.”
“The Black Rifle guys are not the evil that everybody makes them out to be,” said J.J. MacNab, an extremism researcher and the author of ‘The Seditionists: Inside the Explosive World of Anti-Government Extremism in America’. “But they’ve closed their eyes to some of the evil that takes their humor seriously.”