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Philadelphia Union partners with out-of-town craft brewer with controversial past

Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company settled a racial discrimination case in 2019

Beer Drinkers Sample A Variety Of Styles And Flavors At Chicago Beer Festival Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Union announced a new partnership Monday with Founders Brewing, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based craft brewer with a controversial past.

The company settled a racial discrimination lawsuit in 2019 that was filed by a former employee. The suit alleged Founders had a “racist internal corporate culture” and that former promotions manager Tracy Evans was fired in retaliation for complaints he made to human resources about racism, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

Following the settlement — the terms of which were not announced — Founders created a Diversity Action Council, which crafted a statement that is posted on the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion page of their website.

“At Founders, we believe that we are better together,” the statement reads. “We strive to become a driving force for change by building a culture where all employees bring their whole, true, unique self to work every day. We want our actions to have a positive ripple effect in the communities that we serve, and that starts with us ensuring transparency and accountability in everything we do. Our commitment to further advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just something we aspire to do all day, but every day.” wrote about Founders last August in an article titled “Action Without Apology — Can Founders Launch a Massive Racial Equity Plan Without Atoning for Its Past Failures?”

“Whatever comes next, Founders will continue to serve as a case study for an industry that’s grappling with its mostly white, mostly male identity,” the article reads. “Whispered accusations, rumored wrongdoings, and documented offenses within the industry are numerous; Founders has stood in as the catch-all. Whether it can satisfactorily make amends with a new approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) will have ramifications for the beer industry far beyond Michigan.”

Union fans online were quick to respond to the news on Monday by calling attention to the past controversy, which inspired a #fuckfounders hashtag, and pointing out that there are a number of local craft brewers in the Philadelphia region.

The partnership is the first for Founders with a Major League Soccer team and the press release from the Union refers to them as “an official craft beer partner of the Union and Subaru Park.” Founders will also be a presenting partner of the “Tickets for Troops” program.

“We know our fans will love enjoying Founders products responsibly at Subaru Park on game day,” Jean-Paul Dardenne, SVP of Corporate Partnerships at the Philadelphia Union, stated in a news release. “Founders shares our belief in being a good community partner and we look forward to hosting the brave men and women who have fought for our country.”