Ben & Jerry Defend Colin Kaepernick Ice Cream Flavor Against Right-Wing Trolls
Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield talk to Marlow Stern about the company’s new Colin Kaepernick flavor, and the strange conservative reaction to it.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are not only the co-founders of the best damn ice-cream company ever, Ben & Jerry’s, but lifelong fighters for social justice.
The two men, who founded the company in 1978 out of a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, have supported numerous lefty causes through their Ben & Jerry’s Foundation; campaigned—and created flavors—for Bernie Sanders; launched a movement to try to overturn Citizens United; and were arrested in 2016 at a “Democracy Awakening” protest in Washington, D.C. Though they say they’re “not in positions of authority at the company,” which they sold some years back to Unilever, they still occasionally help steer its social-justice campaigns—including its renamed flavors championing certain causes, like 2009’s “Hubby Hubby” to promote gay marriage or “Yes Pecan!” in honor of Barack Obama’s presidential win.
Ben & Jerry’s latest flavor is dedicated to the former NFL star turned activist Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling protest against police brutality shifted the culture. It’s called “Change the Whirled,” and is a vegan ice cream (since Kaepernick is a vegan) that consists of a caramel non-dairy sunflower butter base with fudge chips, graham cracker swirls, and chocolate cookie swirls. The press release for the new flavor said that it “celebrates Kaepernick’s courageous work to confront systemic oppression and to stop police violence against Black and Brown people,” and the company’s two 69-year-old architects are delighted by the move.
“When Colin Kaepernick first started taking a knee, I just sent him a whole bunch of ice cream on my own to appreciate him for taking that courageous stand,” Cohen tells The Daily Beast. “The spectacle of football ends up being conflated with militarism [due to] the flyovers by the military planes. There’s an odd view of patriotism that the definition of patriotism is somebody who’s in favor of everything that their country does, and somehow there’s this idea that if you protest something your country is doing, you’re not patriotic. I would posit the opposite—that if you are protesting something your country is doing, you’re doing it because of a deep concern for your country.”
According to Cohen, Ben & Jerry’s and Kaepernick are a perfect match because they’re both trailblazers when it comes to taking a stand, since other companies and athletes followed in their respective footsteps.
“There’s this statement by the German philosopher Schopenhauer—all truths go through three stages: First it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed, then it’s accepted as being self-evident,” explains Cohen. “That happened pretty quick with Kaepernick and the issue of police brutality. First, he was tremendously ridiculed and couldn’t get a job, and today, they’ve got Black Lives Matter written out on the ball fields, in such an incredibly short period of time.”
There are, however, a number of conservatives who are up in arms over the ice-cream flavor. The Daily Caller, which has a long history of publishing white nationalists, called it “a complete joke of a situation” and asked if there would be “a Castro flavor to compliment this one.” Fox News’ Sean Hannity tweeted about it incredulously, and a number of other high-profile conservatives seemed all hot and bothered over… vegan ice cream.
When asked why they feel right-wingers are so upset over the Kaepernick flavor, Cohen said they’re possessed of the “authoritarian viewpoint” where “they are people who believe patriotism is doing whatever the president tells you to do, and so they’re very against somebody [like Kaepernick].” There’s also the racial component. “If someone agrees that Black people are being treated unjustly, then they’d be OK with people that are protesting about the idea that Black people are being treated unjustly. So maybe they don’t feel that Black people are being treated unjustly,” he says. “That’s probably what they think.”
Jerry, meanwhile, argues that the proof is in the pudding.
“The thing that’s interesting to me is that Ben & Jerry’s, now and in the past, has spoken out on issues that upset people,” adds Greenfield. “They say, ‘Oh, we don’t like what the company does, we’re not going to buy the ice cream anymore.’ And the company acts on its values because that’s what it believes in, and despite the fact that some people don’t like it, the company continues to thrive. What that says to me is, you don’t need to be worried about upsetting some people when you’re doing what is right, and what you believe in.”
Our full interview with Ben & Jerry will run on Saturday, touching on their long history, surviving the Trump years over lots of ice cream, and why they’re fighting to free Julian Assange.