The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation staff is expected to drop Enbridge as a corporate sponsor because of grass roots opposition to the company and its crude oil pipelines, Executive Director Ben Popp said in a phone interview today.
“We are in the process of having those internal discussions but the likelihood is very high,” he said. “I would say 99 percent. We will have the final decision later today.”
Enbridge has sponsored the Birkebeiner for approximately a year, contributing roughly $10,000, Popp said. It’s relatively small compared to the foundation’s $3.5 million budget.
Birkebeiner staff began hearing from the public in the last 10 days, pushing back on the Enbridge sponsorship. Voices “grew, and grew, and grew,” he said.
Some opposition appeared as comments on the foundation’s Facebook Page. Turtle Empath posted: “Ben Popp, Please give back the dirty energy money from Enbridge. Don’t let them buy you and the amazing Birkiebeiner!”
Cynthia Gillespie posted: “I hope people from your organization witness firsthand the destruction that is occurring all over the northland at a riproaring pace at the hands of Enbridge.”
Chris Erickson posted: “I see the Birkie as an event and an organization that celebrates the wonder of the outdoors and the strong bond between athlete and their environment. Enbridge is the antithesis of this and has no regard preserving the beauty of the environment and respecting the bonds between people and their land.”
The Foundation represents a large group of people, 20,000 to 30,000, Popp said. “We want to make sure we represent them accurately.”
Update: Here is the statement posted on their website:
Recently, we heard from some in the Birkie community regarding our relationship with Enbridge Energy, Superior, WI. From the onset, our mutual engagement was intended as a space to foster thoughtful discussion about the environment and climate change. With our commitment to Birkie Green, an initiative designed to inspire and implement solutions to address changing climates, it was our hope that as a community we could collectively create change, over time, toward less reliance on fossil fuels in our everyday lives.
We’ve taken pause to reconsider our relationship with Enbridge Energy and have chosen to dissolve our agreement. In hindsight, we realize that this association was perhaps not a clear pathway to engaging conversation in support of education, future change, and ultimately our greater Birkie Green initiatives, nor was it in alignment with our American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) mission. For that, we are sorry. We never intended to cause concern within the Birkie community.