Fact Check on Controversial UFC Sponsor Hoelzer Reich

via www.evoagents.com

Jamie Vine of Hoelzer Reich has e-mailed me and asked me to clarify a few things regarding their company and the ties to neo-Nazis as has been written about previously.  The company became the subject of much debate following the news that Joe Brammer would be walking out at The Ultimate Fighter Finale wearing a Hoelzer Reich shirt.

I requested statements from the UFC in the days leading up to the event but received no response from anyone in their PR department.

On the actual broadcast of the event Brammer's fight was shown including his full walk out (oddly enough the walk out for Kimbo Slice and Houston Alexander was not shown).  This gave the walk out shirt a significant amount of screen time.  I am not normally one to speculate on such things, but it almost seemed as though an effort was made to ensure that Brammer's walk in was given time on the broadcast.

Jamie claims that nothing written about them was based on any facts or any evidence and would like me to do a piece not based on internet forum rumors but on the truth.

That being said, here are the facts and plenty of sources to back them up.  Fair warning, several of these points were discussed (in less detail) in the last piece on HR:

1)  The West Wall Situation.  The band West Wall is led by Ed Wolbank.  Wolbank is the former leader of the Northern Hammerskins and has previously discussed the role of using music to educate.  Feel free to give the history of "Hammerskin Nation" a read, Ed gets a special mention in the article.  Hoelzer Reich is quick to point out that West Wall is a "War Metal" band, not a neo-Nazi band.  Of course; these war metal songs just all tend to be about the German military, the name of the band hints at a bit more, and their first album was co-released by White Noise Records and Old Guard Records.  For the curious among our readers I will clarify that Old Guard Records announced the opening of their online store by stating that notorious white pride group The Bully Boys would be "firing up the oven again" with an upcoming release on the label (The Bully Boys also have a song called "Hammerskins", so clearly West Wall is on a mission to distance themselves from Ed's background).

Circling back to Hoelzer Reich's ties to West Wall.  West Wall claimed in a previous interview that they were sponsored by HR.  The HR website and Myspace pages featured photos of WW in HR gear, the HR Myspace page had up a playlist of WW songs (now removed) and the HR blog called WW their favorite band (now removed).  However, Jamie Vine stated on the Underground Forums (multiple forum posts merged into one):

We never "Sponsored" Westwall. The band bought a few of our shirts, and were kind enough to send us some photos in the gear.

...

Ed does have HR shirts, we dont pick and choode who buys our stuff online. We never sponsored them. It was just a photo THEY took and sent to us. Get it?

...

Westwall pictures were on our sites. We thought the music was cool.... We were not doing a 20 year background check on the band or its members. We liked the pictures they took in our shirts, we thought it was nice of them, so we put them up.  And now, they are down.

Now, Jamie has pointed me to this article which has the following statement from West Wall:

As to the flak that Hoelzer Reich has been catching over our band. The fine people at Hoelzer Reich heard our music, enjoyed it and sent us a free box of shirts. We in turn wore them for a photo shoot and sent them the pictures. Nothing more, nothing less!!!They did not send us any money to wear these shirts, they have nothing to do with our band and have nothing to do with the concerts/shows we play.

Of course, this isn't exactly the same as Jamie's earlier statements that the company has no control over who ends up in their shirts and that West Wall simply purchased some merchandise, wore it and sent the photos in.  Why lie about the situation if the association was purely a few innocent free shirts?

2) The Shirt DesignsAryan Wear designed shirt vs. Hoelzer Reich designed shirt.  Also, a Hoelzer Reich shirt can be seen here which states in German that "The Fourth Reich has begun."  For what it's worth, there isn't a lot of debate over what The Fourth Reich means.

Now, HR has stopped selling some of these shirts, such as the eagle shirt linked above.  But, this doesn't exactly explain their existence in the first place.

3) The Sponsorship of Niko Puhakka - Niko Puhakka is a fighter with multiple neo-Nazi inspired tattoos such as "Blood & Honour" on his chest (feel free to Google Blood & Honour for meaning).  Niko is sponsored by Hoelzer Reich.  They state that the sponsorship is due to Niko being a tough fighter and nothing more.  Jamie also sponsors him while stating that "NONE of our sponsored fighters, OR the owners of Hoelzer Reich Clothing, are racist. Not a drop."

So those are the facts.  West Wall's leader (and former hate group leader) previously stated they were sponsored by HR, and now says they were not.  HR said that West Wall bought merchandise and simply wore it which they have no control over, but it turns out the merchandise was given to the band by HR.  HR uses Nazi inspired designs for their clothing.  And they sponsor a fighter covered in neo-Nazi inspired tattoos while stating that none of their sponsored fighters are racist.  These are all facts and are all sourced.

I can not tell our readers how to feel, and it is clear that at no point will the label be coming out and saying "yes, we support neo-Nazi ideals" so everyone is going to have to look at all of these things and decide for themselves what it all means for the company, and more importantly for the sport.

I sent a list of questions to Hoelzer Reich following their request that I post an article of facts with actual sources.  They have not yet responded but this story will be updated once they do offer any statements on their shirt designs, the inconsistent stories on the past association with West Wall and if they would like to offer a public statement condemning the neo-Nazi movement to help strengthen their stance that they are not sympathetic to that cause.

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