This past weekend, Heather Heyer died after being struck by a Dodge Challenger while counterprotesting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. That same weekend, in an epic case of unfortunate timing, Dodge tweeted about its big drag racing event in Michigan, “Roadkill Nights,” which drew heavy criticism on social media. Now those tweets are gone, as Bloombergreported last night.
Dodge has sponsored The Enthusiast Network’s “Roadkill Nights” event, named after the web show and enthusiast site Roadkill, for three years now, with the past two years bringing enormous crowds from all over the country to watch muscle cars drag race down metro-Detroit’s iconic Woodward Avenue.
Usually Roadkill Nights is a huge marketing boon for Dodge, as the brand brings dozens of its own cars to take people on thrill rides, rip smoky burnouts, and set lightning quick eighth-mile drag times. All of this, of course, gets shared on Dodge’s social media pages.
But in the wake of what happened the same weekend in Charlottesville—the suspect charged with plowing into a crowd and killing Heyer and wounding 20 others was driving a Dodge Challenger—the automaker and the event met with a serious backlash.
Some tweets even allege that The Daily Stormer, an avowed and overt white supremacist and Neo-Nazi website, mentioned The Enthusiast Network’s event in an article disparaging the victim of the car crash. (The site is now down):
Bloomberg spoke with Scott Monty from Brain+Trust Partners, a consulting firm that helps companies manage social media accounts. He told the news wire that he thought Dodge’s Roadkill Nights posts were “tone deaf,” saying:
It seems to me completely tone deaf that [Dodge] wouldn’t acknowledge that it was one of their vehicles that was very clearly identified in the weekend’s events…Having a hashtag that is so similar or at least related to what happened, you would think they would just eradicate any existence of that.
For its part, Fiat Chrysler sent Bloomberg a statement via email, saying: “It’s unfortunate that such a pure, safe, family friendly automotive event was linked to such a senseless, horrific act.” The spokesperson also told the site that Dodge had prematurely put an end to what was originally going to be a much bigger social media campaign.
Roadkill also responded to the tragedy in Charlottesville, even saying that it plans to take legal action to “stop hate groups from unlawfully using [its] brand”:
This comes as a number of organizations like the Detroit Red Wings and Tikitry their best to distance themselves from the neo-Nazi, white-supremacist nutjobs who gathered in Charlottesville.
It’s an unfortunate incident for Dodge and Roadkill, but the protest and its violent ending proved that there are far more troubling and serious problems in this country right now than what happens to the #brands.