An Anheuser-Busch beer distributor has taken down advertising that upset the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.
In a statement released Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Anheuser-Busch said the Budweiser and Bud Light marketing campaign in Eastern North Carolina that prompted the filing of a federal lawsuit had been developed without the knowledge of the Missouri-based beermaker.
Lisa Derus, manager of corporate communication for Anheuser-Busch, issued a statement on behalf of R.A. Jeffreys, the Raleigh-based distributor, saying it had taken down materials that contained the Lumbee logo and slogan shortly after learning of the trouble the banners had brewed.
“R.A. Jeffreys regrets any offense that may have been taken to the use of the materials in which the Lumbee Tribe claims an interest, and R.A. Jeffreys will not make any further use of such materials unless specifically permitted to do so by the Lumbee Tribe, “ the distributor said in a statement. “R.A. Jeffreys values and respects the heritage of the communities in which its customers live and work.”
Anheuser-Busch also issued its own apology the day after attorneys William B. Cannon, Christopher M. Thomas and Catherine Lawson filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina complaining of trademark infringement.
“Our wholesalers often implement local marketing efforts on behalf of our brands,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. “The wholesaler responsible for these signs removed them shortly after a complaint was brought to its attention, and has since expressed its regrets. Anheuser-Busch respects the Lumbee Tribe and likewise regrets that this occurred.”
It was unclear late Wednesday whether the Lumbees would move forward with the lawsuit, which described the marketing campaign as “unscrupulous,” “immoral,” “unethical” and “oppressive.”
The lawsuit contends that irreparable damage was caused by putting up banners over two convenience store beer coolers in Raeford and Lumberton that displayed the four-colored Lumbee logo and its “Heritage, Pride & Strength” slogan.
The Lumbees are a state-recognized Native American tribe with about 55,000 enrolled members who live mostly in Robeson and adjacent counties in southeastern North Carolina.
The marketing for Bud and Bud Light banners were used “in a way that many members of the tribe find offensive because alcohol abuse is often associated with Native American culture,” the lawsuit states.
Efforts to reach the attorneys representing the Lumbees in court were unsuccessful Wednesday evening.