This morning I awoke to an Internet circus. Team Wendy, one of our advertisers, had shared a local news story that Democratic front runner for President, Hillary Rodham Clinton was holding an event at their facility this coming Monday. Now, I shouldn’t have to point this out, but I will; Mrs Clinton is not well liked by the rank and file or veteran service member or Law Enforcement Officer (this guy included). As you can imagine, the Internet mob was out in full force, vilifying Team Wendy for their actions. I received several emails about the issue from concerned readers as well, so I looked into it. I have spoken with Team Wendy CEO Jose Rizo-Patron about the situation and he offered the statement below. But before I get to it, I’d like to say something about this situation, Team Wendy and its owner, Daniel T Moore, from my perspective.
I’ve known Mr Moore for well over 10 years now, since well before there was an SSD, and I’ve met with him on several occasions. Until today I never even considered his politics. We always spoke about American manufacturing and his efforts in dealing with Brain Injuries. Once, on a visit, we also discussed his hometown of Cleveland, and I can tell you, that man is proud of his town. But we never discussed politics because it wasn’t germane to our common goals of protecting service members and employing Americans. Even now, I know that those are core values of Team Wendy as well as the man that owns it, and those are the very reasons that they are an advertiser on my website.
As I understand it, Secretary Clinton had planned to visit the 700,000 sq ft facility which houses Team Wendy along with several other small manufacturers called the Cleveland Industrial Innovation Center. At some point it was determined that this repurposed plant contained a defense contractor. Hard to say who made the call. The area is solidly Democrat so it could just as well have been a local party organizer as an HRC campaigner. Regardless, it transformed somewhere along the way from a facility visit to a campaign event. The news was notified and it blew up. I have a feeling that the opportunity to bring TBI to the national stage became the main focus, and the possible fallout from a visit by a Presidential candidate wasn’t at the forefront. There was some excitement and the news story was shared by Team Wendy in their Facebook page. Näive? To be sure. But I don’t see any effort in their end to endorse a candidate for political office as so many have claimed. I also think Team Wendy had as many actual customers as were claimed during the Facebook tirade against them. They employee Americans, continue to innovate and make a great product that is used in every issue helmet. Their ZAP pads have saved many a noggin over the years from the effects of shock and blast. Also, their next generation of helmets and liners are pushing the envelope of protection technology.
Do I think it was a mistake? Absolutely. But on this one, Team Wendy gets a mulligan from me. To be sure, it’s been a costly learning experience for them. They are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. They could go back on their word to participate in the visit and make their critics happy. However, this could result in ramifications both locally and perhaps, long term at the federal level. On the other hand, Team Wendy could go along with the event and alienate their customer base. Regardless of which course Team Wendy takes, this is a cautionary tale for anyone in the defense industry to abstain from endorsing political candidates from any party. The reality of business is that they must work with both parties.
My support for Team Wendy hinges on their long-term actions. Will they stay true to their commitment to excellence in the head protection arena? Will they continue to insist on American manufacturing? And, will they stay out of politics? America needs a vibrant defense industry. I am in this for the long haul and I want to see them there as well.
– Eric Graves, SSD Editor
Team Wendy’s Statement
Team Wendy Friends and Customers,
Let me start by stating unequivocally that Team Wendy has not endorsed nor will be endorsing any candidate for President of the United States.
Our business and focus is centered around three principal goals: Protecting Americans and our allies against serious and potentially life-threatening impact related injuries, creating American jobs and promoting American manufacturing.
To the extent that politicians are interested in working with us to address these core goals, Team Wendy has always been, and will continue to be, willing to meet and listen. We do not get to dictate who serves as President of the United States, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State or Chairman of the HASC. We simply engage with and are openly willing to work with anyone who shares our core mission of saving lives, or anyone who is in a position to positively advance our mission.
To those who are not aware, Team Wendy is a company within a portfolio of sister companies that focus mainly on industrial innovation. Team Wendy is very different than its sister companies. Team Wendy was founded in 1997 by Cleveland-based entrepreneur Dan T. Moore as a memorial to his daughter Wendy, who passed away from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) following a snow-skiing accident. Next year will mark the 20 year anniversary since Wendy’s passing as a result of that tragic accident. Her legacy and memory lives on daily here at Team Wendy through the work being done toward developing leading edge protective gear and other innovative products.
Wendy’s legacy also lives on through the work that Team Wendy does by engaging government, academia and the private sector to learn more about TBI and how we can better prevent this from happening to the American troops who do so much to protect our country.
Although we are a profit-making company, we will continue to be driven by Wendy’s legacy and will continue to work our tails off to provide our guys and gals on the front lines the best protective equipment possible, in the most timely fashion possible, and with the best customer service we can deliver. Nothing is more important to us.
We intend to actively and aggressively promote our core mission with Secretary Clinton during her time here on Monday and will continue to work as a company to do all that we can to be advocates for our core customers, our troops and first responders.
CEO, Team Wendy