Black Rifle Coffee Company paid to play in the San Antonio Monopoly game. Here's why it's weird.

The San Antonio Monopoly board. 

The San Antonio Monopoly board. 

Crystal Lopez-Crebs (X Level Inc)

The following is an opinion piece. 

On Wednesday, October 20, an official San Antonio Monopoly game was unveiled at the Menger Hotel. 

A collaboration between Top Trumps Inc. and the City of San Antonio, the rollout is a local take on the classic board game and features over 24 local landmarks like the Alamo and the Japanese Tea Gardens. 

Interestingly, when the board was revealed, several surprising inclusions were made. Prominently displayed next to glittering images of indisputable local landmarks like the Tower of the Americas is Dignowity Meats, Valero, and Utah-based coffee company Black Rifle Coffee Company. 

Not only is the Black Rifle depicted in the center of the board, but it also hosts its own square. 

The company called on locals to cast their picks for iconic San Antonio sites several months back. A representative from the company claims they received thousands of submissions. 

I understand that businesses often pay for advertising in covert ways. However, of all the wonderful, culturally meaningful San Antonio haunts, it’s laughable that the game makers allowed a place that has only been brewing here since 2020 to take up so much space on the board. 

Not only is Black Rifle a San Antonio newcomer, but it’s also nationally recognized for its controversial branding and being entangled in the culture war. 

In 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois teenager charged in the fatal shootings of two people at a Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin in the summer of 2020, was seen sporting the company’s T-shirt after leaving jail. 

Some of the rioters that made a spectacle at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were also seen wearing Black Rifle merch, according to the Express-News

The veteran-owned coffee company claims to brew “freedom-filled” cups of Joe to “people who love America.”

Undeniably, in a post-2016 world, these are words that have now become synonymous with a certain stripe of conservatism. 

Earlier this year, a New York Times article published called “Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?” In it, the brewers — to their credit — denounced extremists groups like the Proud Boys who had been adopting the brand's aesthetics as their own. 

Company co-founder Evan Hafer told the Times: “How do you build a cool, kind of irreverent, pro-Second Amendment, pro-America brand in the MAGA era without doubling down on the MAGA movement and also not being called a [expletive] RINO by the MAGA guys?”

A video on the company website's “About” page is a barrage of sepia-hued tactical imagery, like it was pulled straight out of that one Bradley Cooper movie about Osama Bin Laden (you know the one). Intending to detail one of the founder’s initial forays into coffee, it could easily be interchanged as a recruitment video for the U.S. military. 

Within the first 30 seconds, the founder delivers the line, “I went to war and war changed me, it changed me for the better.”

Whether the City of San Antonio and the manufacturers of the game realize it or not, the prominent inclusion of Black Rifle in something that purports to be a monument of San Antonio history and culture makes a big statement.

Sure, Black Rifle is allowed to be as gun touting and tactical as they want, but do they belong plastered across an artifact commemorating the city with their guns blazing?

At best, the choice is a lazy one. At worst, it’s heavily biased. If money is the issue (and in Monopoly and in life, money is always the issue) were there not dozens of other lucrative places that have been operating in San Antonio for more than a year that were willing to cash in?

If they had to include a coffee business, why not San Antonio-based What's Brewing or Merit? Why not the Pearl, which has its own problems, but is part of San Antonio's history?

Regardless of personal politics, the choice to include a rookie business with its name in lights in the San Antonio Monopoly game seems illogical. At the same time, it's impossible to deny that we are a Military City in a generally pro-Second Amendment state.

It’s likely that the Black Rifle love is more wide-reaching than any of us can imagine. Though if the intention was to acknowledge the military, they could have included an institution with more historical standing that would have better blended amongst sites like Mission Concepción, the River Walk, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. (The Ft. Sam Houston Army base would have worked just fine.) 

Monopoly, a game about developing real estate and forcing opponents into bankruptcy, has never been a lesson in ethics. It's about paying to play, and that's exactly what Black Rifle did. It's ultimately kind of perfect. 

At the end of the day, the San Antonio Monopoly game is just a weird little byproduct of capitalism that is at once an advertisement and a cut-throat family game. It will still probably be fun to gather the family, shake the dice, and take Black Rifle for $220

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