Update: This post has been amended to reflect changing information we have received since it was first published.
Fender has terminated its relationship with Custom Shop Master Builder John Cruz. Although Fender confirmed to us that he is no longer with the company, a spokesperson said that Fender would issue no further comment “as a matter of policy”. But according to rumours circulating on guitar forums, Mr Cruz was terminated because of a post on social media relating to the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the USA.
Fender Custom Shop
John Cruz was at Fender for a long time and his name has been attached to a lot of high-end Custom Shop models. Suspicion that he was no longer with the company first arose when his name was removed from the Fender Custom Shop ‘Meet The Builders‘ section. We then reached out to Fender, who confirmed that he is no longer working for the company.
But why would Fender remove one of its leading Master Builders? According to a Facebook post of 2 June by bassist Gregor Fris, Cruz had posted a highly distasteful image in connection with the recent protests in the USA. Fris later commented on his own post giving an update, saying Fender had called him to say that Cruz had been relieved of his duties. He said:
Fender called me today and we had a very friendly and constructive conversation about this incident. At this point, John is not (sic) longer employed at Fender. The whole executive team is now sitting down to discuss how to shake things up within their team and their own rows … I never wanted this, but kudos to Fender for taking a stand. Maybe it’s the right time to make some tough decisions.
An image purported to be the one that resulted in his dismissal was later posted to a thread on the Fretboard guitar forum. At the moment, we can’t verify its authenticity. But even if we knew it was genuine, we wouldn’t reproduce it here because it is, frankly, just too awful. Anyone who posted an image as deplorable as that would, in any functioning company, face dismissal. It’s a disturbing episode that will no doubt shock and sadden many.