SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — The Sioux City Bandits have postponed their plan to give away an AR-15 rifle in light of recent mass shootings carried out with similar weapons.
Team owner J.R. Bond said that the giveaway is an annual event and was finalized nine months ago, according to the Des Moines Register. They also reported that Bond said the team wouldn’t “cower down and backtrack because some guys in New York City and some guys in Boston, Massachusetts, think it’s bad taste.”
The gun was going to be supplied by American Brothers in Arms, a Sioux City business owned by Army National Guard veterans. The rifle was going to be given away Saturday as part of a Bandits “Military Night” promotion.
The team said in a Wednesday Facebook post that the gun would not have been at the arena, officials said and would have to pick up from the American Brothers in Arms. Additionally, the winner would have had to be over 18 years old and pass a background check before receiving the firearm.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, the Bandits said that Military Night is meant to “honor all of our American freedoms. This includes both the freedom of speech and the 2nd Amendment.”
While there were some supporters of the giveaway, most comments on now-deleted Facebook posts questioned the timing of the giveaway and called it tone-deaf after the May 24 school shooting in Texas. A gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, killing 19 students and 2 teachers. The shooter reportedly used an AR-15-style rifle.
KCAU 9 confirmed that a sponsor of the football team threatened to pull sponsorship from the team if they continued with the firearm giveaway.
Later Wednesday night, the Bandits said in a Facebook post that “timing is everything though” and that they were postponing the giveaway. They added that the team will still be giving away a firearms training course and making a donation to veterans charities.
The Bandits said on a Facebook post that they will make their usual donation to veteran charities but would like to “add something on top.” They said they have been blessed with record attendance and would “like to share those blessings directly.”