FedEx Pulls Event Sponsorship Over Controversial Figure

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(Memphis) - FedEx is more than just Memphis’ biggest employers; it is also one of the world's best-known brands.

Therefore, it was a big deal when the company agreed to sponsor an upcoming conference in Memphis for business start-ups, but FedEx abruptly pulled the sponsorship after learning one of the accused West Memphis Three killers was going to speak.

This is the first time that Damien Echols would appear publicly in Memphis since getting out of prison. People say FedEx pulling out on the conference is not giving him a very warm welcome.

Kyle Sandler believes having FedEx as a sponsor for a start-up conference is a perfect match, given its history, “From Fred smith starting FedEx, to growing it as a start-up himself to a global brand in a category by itself.”

It’s only fitting then for Sandler, who is conference coordinator, to be disappointed when FedEx pulled their sponsorship from this weekend’s event, The shipping company found out that Damien Echols was scheduled to appear and talk about the shifts in technology since being in prison on death row.

“They have to do what`s right for them and I respect that,” said Sandler.

FedEx removed its name, funding, and speakers from the event, claiming the conference took a turn in a direction that was not fitted with the company's mission or focus to help start-ups.

“[They] also mentioned that they did not want to associate the name or the brand with someone so polarizing in Memphis,” said Sandler who got the call Wednesday.

People sounded off on Twitter calling FedEx’s decision embarrassing, while others say they're no longer using their services, but Echols reassured people's concern on his Twitter account, telling them not to sweat it.

The pullout, however, sent Sandler scrambling to find more sponsors, He says businesses and people stepped up, “We're going to make and it's going to be a great event. You know, there are a lot of things that happen to start up founders, keep getting hit with adversity and more adversity, but they keep coming and its part of the challenge, so challenge accepted and conquered.”

FedEx claims it will reimburse the conference to print new programs to remove its logos. The three-day conference starts Sunday.

Damien Echols released the following statement:

"I am blessed to have the support of hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe, from New Zealand to Norway, many whom worked tirelessly to free me, Jason and Jesse. After close to 20 years imprisoned on death row, I have endured greater hardships than FedEx making a rash decision without knowing very much about my case. It is more a measure FedEx's lack of corporate integrity and decency than it is about my struggle to clear my name."