America First Credit Union responds to Utah Royals jersey controversy

Supporters from the Chicago Red Stars and North Carolina Courage have made statements against Utah’s jerseys.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals forward Ally Sentnor (9) during their season opener at America First Field Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Sandy, Utah.

Supporter groups from two National Women’s Soccer League teams have come out against the jersey sponsor of the Utah Royals.

Chicago Local 134 and The Uproar — supporter groups for the Chicago Red Stars and North Carolina Courage, respectively — have taken issue with America First Credit Union, the jersey front sponsor of the Royals, as well the naming rights sponsor of the stadium in Sandy where Real Salt Lake and Royals play.

It’s become an issue that has the state’s governor rolling his eyes, fans split and the credit union explaining its history.

The Uproar released a statement Friday in advance of the game between the Royals and the Courage criticizing the organization for partnering with a company that uses the “America First” phrase.

“While we support all the Utah players and their fans, we can’t stand by without mentioning the front of jersey sponsor, America First Credit Union, of our opponent — the Utah Royals,” the statement reads. “The phrase ‘America First’ has a long history rooted in racism, fascism, and hateful ideology.”

Last week, the day before the Royals lost their season opener to the Red Stars, Chicago Local 134 released a similar statement.

“The history of the phrase ‘America First’ and the imagery used in the credit union’s logo is rooted in racist ideology [and] propaganda that harks back to the Nazis and the KKK,” the statement read. “[S]occer is for all, and promoting an institution that is represented by racist propaganda is unacceptable.”

Gov. Spencer Cox voiced his feelings about The Uproar’s statement via X.

“Just when you think this website can’t get any more ridiculous (I had to double check if this was a parody account…sadly it is not),” Cox wrote in a quote tweet.

America First Credit Union provided the following statement to The Tribune:

“America First Credit Union is dedicated to serving the financial needs of all individuals and communities within its field of membership. Its name and history are rooted in the credit union’s initial connection with the United States government, serving civilian federal employees working at American military bases, including Utah’s Fort Douglas, where the credit union was founded in 1939.

“Throughout its 85-year history, America First Credit Union has worked to put the financial needs and interests of its members and community first—never losing sight of their founding principle of ‘people helping people.’”

The credit union was founded 1939 under the name Fort Douglas Civilian Employees Credit Union. It became Federal Employees Credit Union in 1947 after the company relocated to Ogden.

In 1984, it became America First Credit Union. The company said “America” comes from its connection with the U.S. government and working with people who worked on military bases and depots in Utah. It also said “First” was " meant to reflect our continuing dedication to always putting the financial needs of our members at the forefront of our efforts.”

In regards to its logo, AFCU said it’s a representation of the North American Bald Eagle, and “stylistically designed to look similar to the wings worn by many of the brave service men and women in our armed forces.”

The phrase “America First” has been used in politics since the 1850s. President Woodrow Wilson used it to describe what he meant by neutrality, and president Warren G. Harding used it while campaigning for the general election in 1920.

The term then popped up within the Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s. During World War II, the America First Committee used the phrase as its slogan in its efforts to keep the U.S. from getting involved in the war.

President Donald Trump used “America First” on multiple occasions during his 2016 presidential campaign. David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK, ran for a Senate seat using the slogan.

Fans who spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune had different perspectives. One fan said AFCU is “just a credit union” and has no issue with it being a jersey sponsor. Another fan, however, said they don’t bank with the credit union nor will they buy Royals merchandise that features the sponsor.