I-Team: U.S. Olympic Squad Partners With Gun Website That Hosts Nazi Product Ads - NBC Southern California
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I-Team: U.S. Olympic Squad Partners With Gun Website That Hosts Nazi Product Ads

USA Shooting last month said the Olympic team was partnering with the site and the nation's gun manufacturers "to support America's shooting team" with a series of fundraising gun auctions

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    I-Team: Olympic Team Partnership Controversy

    Several lawmakers are expressing outrage after the I-Team's investigation found a team of US Olympic athletes partnering with a website that hosts ads for Nazi paraphernalia. NBC's Chris Glorioso reports on this controversy involving USA Shooting and GunBroker.com.

    (Published Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018)

    Several federal lawmakers are calling on the USA Olympic Shooting organization to cut ties with Gunbroker.com, a firearms auction site which the I-Team discovered is also hosting sales of Holocaust relics and concentration camp memorabilia.

    "U.S. Olympic Shooting’s partnership with a firearms auction website that peddles hateful and anti-Semitic products is indefensible," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D - Connecticut).

    “Items that symbolize hate are despicable," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey).

    He added, "USA Shooting should end any association with Gunbroker.com."

    The tough words from Congress, come after the Anti-Defamation League expressed extreme concern about the message being sent when semi-automatic weapons are advertised alongside Nazi paraphernalia.

    “These are symbols of hate in the worst possible way and in a society that has seen such an amazing uptick in anti-Semitism, companies need to do everything in their power to dial that down,” said Evan Bernstein, the New York Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League. “This site and those kind of products are ratcheting it up.”

    Among the items for sale this week on Gunbroker.com include:

    • A replica Nazi canister of Zyklon B, a type of cyanide gas used to kill thousands of Jewish prisoners in the Holocaust that the sellers says “would definitely get people’s attention on a desk top or mantle!”
    • A concentration camp prisoner uniform billed as “all original and in good used condition” for $75,000.
    • A book called “Holocaust Hoax Exposed.” The seller encourages people “read the truth and get the facts as you never knew before about the biggest lie ever told!!!”

    Gunbroker.com bills itself as "the world’s largest online auction site for firearms and hunting/shooting accessories" and the I-Team has reported for two years on its policy of allowing people to sell Holocaust relics, Nazi memorabilia, and even anti-Semitic literature alongside the thousands of firearms for sale on the website.

    The ADL has condemned the sales before, but now it is also taking aim at one of the website’s high-profile partners.

    A press release published by USA Shooting last month says the Olympic team, which is officially backed by the United States Olympic Committee, "is partnering with Gunbroker.com and the nation’s gun manufacturers to support America’s shooting team” with a series of fundraising gun auctions.

    "I don’t see how it doesn’t promote hate to sell the kind of items in the way they’re selling it with the kind of narrative that’s associated with it," said Bernstein. “Doing business in this way is only making our society a worse place.”

    In response to questions from the I-Team, USA Shooting issued a statement saying:

    “Our relationship with Gunbroker in no way signifies our approval of these items, just as we don’t approve of every item or the editorial on the websites and social media platforms that we use to promote our sport. We use Gunbroker.com with a very specific purpose of hosting auctions of donated firearms to raise money for our team and athletes. That is the current partnership arrangement.”

    The US Olympic Committee, a Congressionally chartered body with the authority to decertify Olympic teams, criticized the shooting team's decision to stick with Gunbroker.

    "Paraphernalia that celebrates hatred should be rejected in every form," said Patrick Sandusky, a USOC spokesman. "We encourage all members of the movement to demonstrate the Olympic values every day and we are discouraged by this action."

    Pallone, a member of the congressional subcomitte that examined the USOC's response to sex abuse at USA Gymnastics, called on USA shooting to end its relationship with Gunbroker.

    "No self-respecting individual, business or organization should have anything to do with this website, especially one for U.S. athletes," he said. 

    Rep. Yvette Clark, a Democrat of Brooklyn, also sits on the same committe as Pallone. She likewise called on USA Shooting to cut ties.

    “I do not believe it is appropriate for the US Shooting team to continue its partnership with this particular online store," she said. "Any partner of the US Olympic Team should reflect the values of America. The sale and promotion of these hate symbols does not reflect the best of who we are as a nation and has no place in our civil society.”

    'ASTONISHING AND APPALLING RESPONSE'

    But members of Congress were quick to condemn both the USA Shooting relationship with GunBroker, and the USOC's response. 

    “U.S. Olympic Shooting’s partnership with a firearms auction website that peddles hateful and anti-Semitic products is indefensible. Their astonishing and appalling response to criticism is unworthy of an organization that has the honor to represent America on the world stage. It is simply not enough for USOC to be ‘discouraged’ by the shooting team’s partnership—USOC fails to put its money where its mouth is, and end this partnership," Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement. 

    And Rep. Diana DeGette, the chief deputy whip for the Democrats in the House, was similarly stern in calling for an end to the relationship. 

    “Glorifying the Holocaust, denying it outright, or promoting sales of related ‘memorabilia’ is repugnant. U.S. Olympic sports figures, who symbolize our highest athletic ideals, must repudiate hate speech of any kind – and most especially at this time, the corrosive rot that is anti-Semitism. USA Shooting must renounce its relationship with this website and its hateful ads," DeGette said in a statement. 

    Among the weapons listed for sale on Gunbroker.com are handguns, machine guns, and assault-style rifles similar to the one authorities accused Pittsburgh’s Rob Bowers of using, when he allegedly stormed into the Tree of Life Synagogue, killing 11 Jewish worshipers over the weekend.

    The massacre, which was the worst anti-Semitic mass shooting in American history, has renewed debate over whether social media and e-commerce websites have any responsible to scrub postings that involve hate speech or other content that could normalize violence against Jews.

    After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Gab, the social media site that hosted many of Bowers’ anti-Semitic postings was taken offline. The founder of Gab issued a statement that said his social media site had been “systematically no-platformed by App Stores, multiple hosting provides, and several payment processors.

    The I-Team reached out to PayPal, the company that processes payments for some of Gunbroker's vendors. By this article’s deadline, we have not heard back.

    The I-Team also reached out NameCheap.com, which is listed as the company that registered GunBroker's domain name, ZenDesk, which provides the company's customer support software. So far we have heard no comment from either.

    Gunbroker.com has not responded to repeated requests for comment from the I-Team.