Earlier today I posted criticism about 51Fifty Energy Drink’s use of the puzzle pieces graphics on their cans to promote autism awareness. This is an autism awareness campaign gone wrong. Their response was to block me on Twitter.
The name 51Fifty and slogan/hashtag #LiveTheMadness promotes stigma and mock folks, like me, with a mental illness. The code 5150 is California’s police code for those with a brain disorder having a deep mental crisis and are either a danger to themselves or others. Having a mental illness is not a choice. Having autism is not a choice. Being a badass is a choice.
The company’s description on their LinkedIn Profile states that in 2007 Carlos Vieira wanted to become a race car driver and took a chance to realize that dream. He used “the fact that everyone thought he was crazy as an inspiration for the name, ’51Fifty.'”
The profile highlights that he donated his winnings to a local non-profit and then established The Carlos Vieira Foundation to support families with autistic children. Also, that the charity has a grant program in five Central California counties and donates to programs nationwide to help find a cure for autism. According to the company’s description page, 51Fifty Energy Drink was created to help those efforts.
Folks, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how promoting stigma in the name of advocacy makes sense. I’m a mother to a son on the spectrum and know how awful society’s view of autism and violence can be — and the horror of the press reporting stories on mass college shootings and other violence relating it to autism and Asperger’s.
Whether this company’s heart is in the right place or not, they can and need to do better.