Why do Neo-Nazis and white supremacists keep laying claim to some of America’s most popular brands?
Most recently, the far-right website the Daily Stormer decided to name Papa John’s the "official pizza" of the alt-right. The endorsement was soon disavowed by the company, which claimed it doesn’t want neo-Nazis eating its pizza. But by endorsing brands the neo-Nazis succeed in giving the impression that they have mainstream allies who share their vision of an all-white world, experts say.
"The endorsements create some legitimacy for because it ties them to brands that are popular with people," Devin Burghart, a researcher at the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights who specializes in the alt-right, told Newsweek.
"And it's also a way to create distinctions between the alt-right and the so-called 'normies.'"
All of the claims have been made by one man: Andrew Anglin, a writer for the racist website, the Daily Stormer. Here’s a list of the brands neo-Nazis say they love:
The Daily Stormer laid claim to Papa John’s last week after the pizza's CEO John Schnatter blamed his company’s recent financial losses on NFL players protesting police brutality during the national anthem. Papa John’s is the official sponsor of the NFL, and Schnatter was recorded saying that the football league needed to get the protests under control.
He was soon attacked for racism, and critics also discovered that he had vocally opposed the Affordable Care Act, known popularly as Obamacare, and donated money to the Trump campaign.
This confluence of criticism from liberals gave the alt-right the opening it needed to proclaim Papa John’s one of their own.
The Daily Stormer posted a picture of a pizza with a swastika fashioned from pepperoni slices. The caption reads, "Papa John: Official pizza of the alt-right?"
Papa John’s soon released a statement saying it wants nothing to do with Nazis.
Right after Donald Trump was elected President, the neo-Nazis also declared New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People.”
New Balance is the only shoe company that still manufactures its product in the United States. For that reason, the company’s representatives were pleased that President Trump planned to scrap trade deals with Asia that could have affected local shoe markets.
“The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us and frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction,” Matthew LeBretton, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs, told the Wall Street Journal.
Neo-Nazis were ecstatic, twisting the company's statement for their own purposes.
"New Balance is making a gesture to support White people and to support US manufacturing,” Anglin wrote at the time. “We need to support that.”
The company quickly put out a statement ensuring its customers that it is a “values-driven” organization that believes in “humanity, integrity, community and mutual respect for people around the world.”
Neo-Nazis have a strange obsession with Taylor Swift and her “brand.” The leggy blonde singer is worshipped as an “Aryan goddess” by white supremacists around the Internet.
Anglin said he believes Swift is secretly waiting for Donald Trump to take over the world and make racism great again.
“Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn. That’s the most important thing,” Anglin told Broadly in an interview.
“It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world. Probably, she will be betrothed to Trump’s son, and they will be crowned American royalty,” he continued.
Swift has not denounced her alleged loyalties to neo-Nazis. In fact, four days ago she said she’s suing a blogger who called on her to condemn the white supremacists who have made her their icon.
Earlier this year, the Daily Stormer also declared Wendy’s the “official burger of the Neo-Nazi Alt-Right movement” after a representative of the fast-food chain posted a picture of the alt-right meme Pepe the Frog on the company’s Twitter account.
Anglin didn’t waste any time.
“Wendy’s was always my personal favorite burger joint, but I never would have declared it the official burger of the Neo-Nazi Alt-Right movement – until now,” he wrote on the Daily Stormer. “Everyone knows that Pepe is a Nazi frog.”
Wendy’s quickly took down the meme and released a tweet with a short explanation.
“Our community manager was unaware of the recent evolution of the Pepe meme’s meaning and this tweet was promptly deleted,” the Tweet read.