Over the weekend, several brand managers scrambled to respond to the
violence and hatred sparked by protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
gathered on Saturday for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville,
where they were met by counterprotesters. Taunting led to shoving, which
escalated into brawling. Then, around 1:45 p.m., a car
plowed into another vehicle near a group of
counterprotesters, creating a chain reaction that sent people flying. (Initial reports said
the car had run directly into the crowd.)
One person was killed and 19 injured after the vehicle struck the
“In total, at least 34 people were wounded in the clashes, and Gov. Terry
McAuliffe of Virginia
declared a state of emergency,” the Times reported.
Though this might seem like an incident in which PR and corporate
communications pros would opt to remain silent, some organizations were
forced into the spotlight.
White nationalists descended Friday night on the University of Virginia
campus with burning tiki torches—lending a distinctly but likely
unintentional Polynesian aura to a white nationalist group’s march.
It didn’t take long for Tiki Brand to distance itself from the protests,
denouncing the white nationalists’ actions:
Tiki Brand wasn’t the only organization that fired up its crisis
communications response as the protests in Charlottesville turned
Keep your cool in a crisis with these tips.]
Photos on social media showed members of the Detroit Right Wings holding
crude rectangular shields, with “their” logo.
The only difference between the Red Wings and Right Wings logos? The spokes
of the tire that is the center of the logo: the Right Wings logo has them
resembling the lightning bolts of the Schutzstaffel—Hitler’s SS force.
The signs, which showed the team’s winged-wheel logo spokes altered to look
more like swastikas, sparked outrage in the National Hockey League and
among social media users.
The Detroit Red Wings shared the following statement through its social
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) August 12, 2017
The National Hockey League
also released a statement
saying the logo use went against the organization’s “value of
We are obviously outraged by the irresponsible and improper use of our
intellectual property as seen this weekend in Charlottesville, Va. This
specific use is directly contrary to the value of inclusiveness that our
League prioritizes and champions. We will take immediate and all necessary
steps to insure the use is discontinued as promptly as possible, and will
vigorously pursue other remedies, as appropriate.
The Detroit Free Press reported:
It was unclear who or what group was carrying the modified Red Wings logos
but the hockey fan site
Russian Machine Never Breaks attributed the logo use to “aMichigan-based group of Identitarians,” known as the Detroit RightWings.
The Free Press could not confirm Saturday if the Detroit Right Wings were
actually the group in attendance in Charlottesville. Requests for comment
on the Twitter page carrying the Detroit Right Wings name and the same
modified Red Wings logo were not replied to Saturday afternoon. The Twitter
account, which had 25 tweets on it, 69 followers and 41 accounts it
followed, was closed later Saturday.
GoDaddy also announced that it was banning a neo-Nazi website that touts
white nationalists’ messages from using its service.
On Sunday, the website-hosting organization replied to a Twitter user and
said that the Daily Stormer had violated the organization’s terms of
We informed The Daily Stormer that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another provider, as they have violated our terms of service.
— GoDaddy (@GoDaddy) August 14, 2017
The decision came after the Daily Stormer published an article about
Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville on Saturday.
Heyer was among the hundreds who had turned out to protest the rally being
held by white supremacist groups, including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan
members. The suspect,
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder,
three counts of malicious wounding and another count related to the
hit-and-run, police said.
GoDaddy spokesman Dan Race confirmed the move in an email to the Post:
“Given The Daily Stormer’s latest article comes on the immediate heels of a
violent act, we believe this type of article could incite additional
violence, which violates our terms of service,” Race wrote in the email.
The statements by each of these organizations stands in contrast to
President Donald Trump’s statement about the protests in Charlottesville:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of
hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.
Many critics—including Republicans—slammed Trump for not explicitly calling out the white nationalists in
Virginia, noting that one woman was killed when a car drove into a crowd of
counter-protesters, and calling it a “terror attack.”
Trump’s statement sparked a chain of messages sent “on background” to
reporters in which officials tried to explain the president’s vague
statement, though none agreed to attach their names to the comments.
Some were surprised that an organization such as Tiki Brand would need to
issue a crisis response due to political protests:
I can’t believe Tiki had to put out a statement. pic.twitter.com/NhncxZTM20
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) August 14, 2017
However, PR and corporate communications pros should be aware of the
increasing need to be vigilant in scanning the horizon for possible threats
to an organization’s reputation, especially in a time when politicians and
organizations are being criticized for not taking a stand on political and
For GoDaddy in particular, the move also answers those who lashed out
previously because the organization allowed such sites as the Daily Stormer
to have a domain name through its service.
GoDaddy only provides the domain for Daily Stormer and does not host the
site, which calls itself “The World’s Most Genocidal Republican Website.”
While GoDaddy’s action is laudable, it’s also important to note that
activists, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, began
calling on GoDaddy to stop providing Daily Stormer’s domain severa lmonths ago.
GoDaddy has been under fire for months for its perceived failure to take
down DailyStormer.com, a
website that has published articles that could be characterized as racist
GoDaddy told The Daily Beast
that the content on websites such as the Daily Stormer didn’t breach its
terms of service, even though the organization “detest[ed] the sentiment”
that they published:
GoDaddy, the largest domain registrar in the world, has defended its
decision to provide a privacy service—designed to shield contact
information from the public—to The Daily Stormer, AltRight.com, and several other
white-nationalist and neo-Nazi sites, despite warning customers in literal
bold type to “not even think about using our service” to partake in
“morally offensive activity.”
… Ben Butler, GoDaddy’s director of network abuse, told The Daily Beast
that this latest Daily Stormer article did not breach Domains by Proxy’s
terms. “We do not see a reason to take any action under our terms of
service as [the article] does not promote or encourage violence against
people. While we detest the sentiment of this site and the article in
question, we support First Amendment rights and, similar to the principles
of free speech, that sometimes means allowing such tasteless, ignorant
GoDaddy joins Airbnb and Twilio as tech companies taking action aimed at
combatting hate speech in reaction to the Unite the Right rally. Airbnb
deactivated the accounts of several users who were planning to attend the
event, while cloud communications platform
Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson said
it will add “an explicit prohibition of hate speech” in the company’s
acceptable use policy this week.