While the Puerto Rican Day Parade loses major sponsors, these companies remain dedicated to providing scholarships to college-bound students. It started with Goya. The food giant dropped out just weeks after it was revealed that the highly divisive Oscar López Rivera would be honored at the 2017 National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Goya, which has sponsored the parade for the past six decades, didn’t cite López Rivera as the reason it dropped out, but many suspected as much. The news came just before López Rivera’s 35-year prison sentence ended, according to the Associated Press.
In 1981, the government found him guilty of seditious conspiracy and other non-violent crimes after linking him to a Chicago weapons storehouse. Originally sentenced to 55 years, he received 15 additional years after attempting to escape from prison in 1988. President Barack Obama commuted his sentence just before he left office in January. López served most of his sentence at a Terre Haute, Indiana prison, but three months ago, he arrived in Puerto Rico to finish out his sentence under house arrest.
López Rivera was never tied to a specific bombing. But he belonged to the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) – a paramilitary organization advocating for the independence of Puerto Rico. FALN claimed responsibility for the bombing attacks on more than 120 sites that occurred between 1974 and 1980. As a result, people either see López as a former political prisoner and others view him as a terrorist.
When Goya pulled out, the parade’s organizers expressed concern about their ability to provide scholarships to 100 students. As the parade’s website notes, the group will award 100 scholarships to college and college-bound students of Puerto Rican ancestry. The awards are worth $2,000. Since then, more organizations have dropped out, but some of them – including the Yankees, Jet Blue and Coca-Cola – will furnish the scholarships. How the parade will be funded remains less clear.
“While we are saddened and disappointed by certain sponsors pulling out of our Parade, we respect their views and decision to do so,” organizers said on Tuesday, according to Gothamist. “Equally, we respect our Parade’s mission and commitment to inclusiveness, and the responsibility of representing the broadest possible blend [of] voices that make up the Puerto Rican community. While we cannot predict whether other sponsors and/or organizations might choose not to join us on Fifth Avenue this year, we expect they will do so with the same level of responsibility and professionalism as Jet Blue and the Yankees. This community deserves no less.”
Here are all the sponsors who dropped out:
The National Puerto Rican Day Parade is scheduled for June 11, 2017. Get the latest news here.
“This year, we will honor our commitment to provide financial support to advance the educational program and scholarships benefiting students in New York and Puerto Rico but have decided not to march in the Parade,” a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said.
New York Yankees
“The New York Yankees are not participating in this year’s Puerto Rican Day parade. However, for many years, the Yankees have supported a scholarship program that recognizes students selected by the parade organizers,” a Yankee spokesperson said. “To best protect the interests of those students, and avoid any undue harm to them, the Yankees will continue to provide financial support for the scholarships, and will give to the students directly.”
“It became clear that the debate about this year’s parade was diving the community and overshadowing the celebration of Puerto Rican culture that we had set out to support,” JetBlue said in a statement. “Out of respect for the many different points of view, we will be redirecting our funds to support scholarships for Puerto Rican students in both New York and Puerto Rico. We did not make this decision lightly and hope all sides will come together to engage in dialogue about the parade’s role in unifying the community at a time when Puerto Rico needs it most.”
“While we celebrate Puerto Ricans and their rich heritage, we have decided to withdraw our sponsorship of this year’s parade,” AT&T said Tuesday.