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At high-school hockey, our stop-PolyMet message was a no go while the company’s ads were omnipresent

Our proud 75-year tournament has become an annual party for a foreign company. Ad revenue aside, the heavy PolyMet presence should raise some serious questions.

photo of protesters wearing t shirts that collectively spell stop polymet
Shortly after revealing the shirts, our group was approached by a woman identifying herself as the facility manager, and two members of the St. Paul Police. We were told we must cover up our T-shirts, or we’d be escorted out.
Courtesy of the authors

Is there an event more quintessentially Minnesota than the annual State High School Hockey Tournament? It is sport at its purest, and it is part of who we are.

It’s also part of who PolyMet wants us to think they are.

PolyMet ads were as ubiquitous as ever during this year’s fine tournament, with soothing images of Minnesota lakes and families, and scholarship announcements. As has been the case for several years running, PolyMet was everywhere, including alongside the athletes who weren’t consulted on the endorsement.

It’s become an annual party for a foreign company

In other words, our proud 75-year tournament has become an annual party for a foreign company. Ad revenue aside, the heavy PolyMet presence should raise some serious questions.

PolyMet is not the neighborhood roofing service, or hockey supply store.

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PolyMet is the Canadian shell of a Swiss extraction giant. As its major investor, Glencore XStrata exercises substantial control over PolyMet. The $50B conglomerate is embroiled in continual controversy about labor rights, human rights, and alleged corruption.

photo of hockey game
Courtesy of the authors
PolyMet ads were as ubiquitous as ever during this year’s tournament.

As you probably know by now, PolyMet is responsible for one of the most controversial proposals ever to be put to our DNR. Tens of thousands of citizen comments on the proposal — the vast majority of which were in opposition — were a record in Minnesota. And evidence continues to mount about its risks even still. Just a few weeks ago, a dam in Brazil — with the same “upstream” design as PolyMet — failed, with catastrophic consequences. Incredibly, the same engineer who designed the PolyMet dam advised the owner of the failed Brazil dam.

Brazil has now banned upstream dams

For its part, Brazil has now banned all such upstream dams. But here in Minnesota, the PolyMet permit continues to reflect the discredited technology.

These are the stakes involved in allowing PolyMet to festoon our tournament.

Last year, a few of us brought a sign to the tournament that said #BenchPolyMet, displaying it near the company’s advertisements, presentations, and TV cameras. We felt that if Glencore and PolyMet are to be welcomed at our tournament, the voice of the opposition is needed as well. Many fans expressed appreciation of the small gesture, but company and event staff were not among them. After a disappointing exchange with highly agitated event staff, the sign was taken.

This year, a larger group wore yellow T-shirts that together spell “#StopPolyMet.”

Briefly, that is. Shortly after revealing the shirts, our group was approached by a woman identifying herself as the facility manager, and two members of the St. Paul Police. We were told we must cover up our T-shirts, or we’d be escorted out.

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We explained that we had consulted the rules, paid for our tickets, and believed we had a right to be there. The Xcel Energy Center is a publicly owned building, hosting a state tournament, and we are huge fans.

The manager responded that the event is run by a private company and they “can remove anyone they want.” The police commander advised us that, in this situation, they were working for the facility manager and that “she is in charge.”

The message we got

In other words, the message from the entities who are together charged with maintaining the integrity of our tournament is this:

You can attend the tournament with shirts that say “Go PolyMet.”

You cannot attend the tournament with shirts that say “Stop PolyMet.”

This is our tournament and we deserve better.

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We Minnesotans came to support the players, the schools, and our water. We were met with the priorities of a foreign company.

Glencore and PolyMet should not be allowed to use our proud tournament as a propaganda campaign as they seek to extract our resources.

To us, the evidence is clear: Glencore and PolyMet are catastrophically dangerous. We must #StopPolyMet to protect a future for the players of this tournament and for all Minnesotans.

Jaci Christenson, of White Bear Lake, and John Doberstein, of Duluth, are both active with the group Duluth for Clean Water. The following are also supportive of this commentary and along with the authors are pictured in the protest photo: Jill Doberstein (Duluth), Brian Muhs (Rochester/Duluth), Charlie Bancroft-Howard (Scandia), Alex Flash (Bloomington), JT Haines (Duluth), Sarah Bancroft-Howard (Scandia), Patty Grimmer (Minneapolis) and Cole Christenson (North Oaks).