Approximate reading time: 2 Minutes
Fender Custom Shop John Cruz

Fender Custom Shop John Cruz  ·  Source: Fender/YouTube

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 ShopMeet 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.

More Information



By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video


By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

by Jef

84 responses to “Fender sacks Custom Shop Master Builder John Cruz”

  1. Gary Benites says:

    I don’t know what he posted, but it’s unusual that he would post racist things being that his name is Cruz and I would say that is Hispanic, and also I am sure in all of his years dealing with artists, there must have been plenty of black musicians he’s dealt with! Between this and the Fulltone news it’s really sad, although apparently Mike Fuller has ALWAYS been an asshole.

    • Mclovin says:

      He posted a pic of a jeep in what i can only assume was Halloween decorations with red paint and fake body parts on it, and the caption saying something about making it through the freeway without a problem. An obvious joke about running through protestors blocking streets. Distasteful? Maybe. But it was obviously a joke and nothing really racist about it unless youre going to play the “if you dont support 100% everything we do then youre automatically racist” card. But in todays world, a joke is always going to offend someone to the point where you lose your job. Having said that, the dude was overrated. I waited 6 years for one of his guitars and first thing i had to do once i finally got it, was to take it to a local park luthier to have it set up. It was worst than an off the rack squier.

    • Wren McKinley says:

      Even though his name might be Cruz, anti blackness and racism is prevalent in the Hispanic community. It’s just a shame that talent and craftsmanship doesn’t behest bias and racism.

      • David Cervantes says:

        His name is Cruz. You are no expert on what is or isn’t prevalent in any Latin community so don’t pretend to be. He screwed up and paid dearly for a very bad decision that had nothing to do with “anti blackness or racism. It’s a shame that you feel so free to judge the “Hispanic community“ and have the audacity and flagitious intent to express your own racism against any community.

      • David Cervantes says:

        His name is Cruz. You are no expert on what is or isn’t prevalent in any Latin community so don’t pretend to be. He screwed up and paid dearly for a very bad decision that had nothing to do with “anti blackness or racism. It’s a shame that you feel so free to judge the “Hispanic community“ and have the audacity and flagitious intent to express your own racism against any community.

    • Adam says:

      You don’t have be Anglo Saxon to be racist .all races are guilty if even takes place in the black community.

  2. Name* says:

    Tearing down their history

    • Dan says:

      Just like Confederate statues. Good on Fender for having zero tolerance to this.

      • David K. says:

        So if some was a different point of view than you… Fire Them? Might rub off an a guitar? Or what?

    • Steven says:

      Sometimes there’s a part of your history that sucks. Racism is like a cancer that needs to be removed.

      • Juggernaut says:

        You mean if someone takes a super graphical public shit on the constitutional rights others you want that someone as a high profile representative of your brand? (Obviously you don’t and obviously you wrote your reply only based on agreement with John’s immature stupidity, rather than rational thought!)

  3. Janne says:

    The most in demand masterbuilder at Fender… multiyear long wait lists… and they fire him over this BS? Hopefully he goes out on his own.

    • Dan says:

      You’re criticising them for having principles….?

      • Mclovin says:

        Principles being you cant post obvious jokes that they dont like because it’ll offend the mob? Really? Had this exact same post been done any other time, he’d still be working at fender. This has absolutely nothing to do with principles and everything about PR control due to current social climate.

        • Steven says:

          Today I learned that a group of people being against racism which has material consequences is just a “mob.” PR control or not, I’m pleased that public racism is becoming less acceptable by the day. You have your freedom of speech, but you don’t have the right to be paid for it.

          • Mclovin says:

            What was racist about it? Not a single race was mentioned at any point in that meme. Are you claiming that protests are only a black people thing? They dont occur for any other social political issues? Because that would be racist.

        • Sam says:

          If he posted that at any other time it wouldn’t have made any sense because the context in which he posted it is what makes it offensive. Do you not understand context? Do you work at Fender? You claim to know this has nothing to do with their principles, so I guess that means you are familiar with their principles. And, yes, usually massive multi million dollar companies are concerned with PR. Do you know how business works?

          • Mclovin says:

            Contrary to what you seem to believe, protesting isnt exclusive to black people. There have been plenty of street blocking protests throughout the years that had zero to do with race. That meme isnt new and doesn’t mention race because it was created for a different protest. So yes, had he posted that exact same picture any other time, like the #metoo protest or #notmypresident protests or #daca protests, he’d still have a job. It wasnt the meme but this current particular context that caused the trouble. Do you understand or should i get out some hand puppets for you?

          • Sam says:

            I didn’t say anything about protesting being exclusive to black people so I have no idea why you would assume I believe that.
            And you argued my exact point back to me: “It wasnt the meme but this current particular context that caused the trouble.”
            And I guess you know the outcome of hypothetical situations.
            Please get out the hand puppets for me.

          • Mclovin says:

            I pointed out that this particular context isnt the only one in existence, which you implied with your “If he posted that at any other time it wouldn’t have made any sense” statement. There are plenty of other times this wouldve made sense without costing him his job. Which was what my first comment said, which you argued against, yet now some how some way, in your mind, you just made a point … let me get out my hand puppets for you, champ

          • Mclovin says:

            Btw, no bigger internet troll move than the classic “imply something then point out you never actually said what you implied, when called on it” technique. Using your own toolish strategy, the meme cruz posted never specifically stated anything about running over protesters, of any race, sex, or gender.

        • mrdoghead says:

          The mob? Save your contempt. “The exact same” post at another time would still be in poor taste and represent poor judgment, but it would not have the same connotations it carries now. Context is everything in public (and private) discourse.

          No company has an obligation to employ a loose cannon in a public-facing, senior position. If this builder were viewed in the company as having an unimpeachable reputation, he might still have had a hard time surviving a web post flogging snickers about running people down down with a military-style vehicle, when we’re seeing this sort of crap in the news. Few people enjoy such sterling reputations. When you represent a big business, you do not post obscene things on the internet and expect to keep that position.

          Even most racists save that kind of loose-turd material for e-mail messages with their personal gang of dimwits.

      • cybertec69 says:

        Says the leftist communists clown.

      • Mike says:

        Anti free speech isnt’s fascism

        • OmegaWave says:

          Are you seriously this ignorant? How can you possibly not understand what free speech means? Did John go to jail? No! Fined? No! Now laws are against what he did. Does that mean that anything you say must be without consequences? NO!!!
          Not wanting a completely amendment-disrespecting super clown to represent your brand is protection of a corporate global entity and the furthest thing from fascism it can possibly be!
          My goodness the ignorance in here is downright absurd!

      • Joseph says:

        Free speech means ALL Speech whether U agree with it or not!! Thats what the founding fathers i tended!!

    • Jed says:

      So you condone his actions? If so, you are part of the problem.

      • Mark says:

        No! the problem is this is getting way out of proportion. Nobody condones the actions of the police involved in George Floyd’s death. The police have been arrested and charged. Firing a great craftsman for a joke in poor taste doesn’t bring back Mr Floyd. In fact Fender will most likely loose business because of firing him. Last time I checked we were still in a free country. We should not be pushed around by a bunch of leftist social justice worriers.

        • OmegaWave says:

          You are in a free country. John was employed by a private company in that country. He did something incredibly stupid under his free rights. It still had consequences to his employment, not because ‘leftist push-around’ [facepalm!] but because the company is also free to protect their capitalist interests and obviously they are way more concerned with their real volume business than the overpriced junk John made.
          Sometimes I wonder how the ever do great US can possibly be 200 years behind the rest of the world?

      • Mike says:

        Bs…people have a right to have an opinion…in this case a joke.

  4. Guitarero says:

    It’s quite well known american companies don’t have any sense of humour. As for Mike Fuller, he didn’t say anything wrong. It seems you’re better off NOT commenting on the whole situation as everyone is jumpy and rather kick you than think = what is missing from this whole shitstorm anyway, people thinking clearly. (Note: CAPTCHA socks)

    • Joseph says:

      These are big companies. They spend lot of time and money on PR, and they are very cognisant of their public image. You cant afford to have prominent staff cavalierly making offensive public statements, (and these are usually framed as a joke). Tolerance of this sort of thing is often lot more costly than anything a single employee can contribute. It’s a straight business decision. You cant expect a company like FMI to take a PR hit for a guy like this.
      Mike Fuller, BTW, is the probably most universally hated man in the industry now that Henry is gone from Gibson. One would expect him to be gone after with a bit of extra zeal when he foolishly runs his mouth like he did. Lots of reputable stores wont carry his stuff.

  5. Mclovin says:

    Gergor Fris seriously implied in his “im offended” post that only black people are protesting and no one called him out on it.

  6. Patricat says:

    I would buy from Cruz if he starts out on his own.
    I have enough Fenders now. Won’t be buying any more.
    See how that works?

    • Steven says:

      Good. He can start his own anti-black community and see how many people want to support that. I’m sure he’ll be fine without tarnishing Fender’s legacy.

    • Billy says:

      You’re free to take your business elsewhere. If Fender cared about selling guitars to your demographic, they’d lose a customer every time a hearse drives by.

  7. Mark says:

    I don’t know what he said and I think people by now should know that it is a very thin line you walk to not anger the SJW’s. It’s very sad indeed, this use to be a free country, we were free to have opinions and thoughts without there being a price to pay, if someone got their feelings hurt then they got their feelings hurt. You should not loose your career for being insensitive to the cause of the day. And just wait, there will be another cause and another after that. Are we going to fire everyone that doesn’t tow the line? Anyhow I suppose Mr. Cruz will make his own guitars and plenty of people will line up to buy them as he is a master craftsman. Fenders loss

    • United States says:

      Yeah, super sad you just can’t be openly racist anymore. Remember the good old days when we could make jokes about an entire race, and EVERYONE would laugh and laugh………wow you really don’t get it at all and that’s pathetic.

      • Mark says:

        You’re right, now only black, Hispanic and middle easterners can be racist. I get it way more that you think you pathetic little twit!

      • Mclovin says:

        The meme had absolutely nothing to do with race. Not once was race mentioned. It wasnt until Fris posted his reply that race even came up. Those implying that the protesters are all black, are the ones being racist. That meme has been around since feminists were blocking freeways with their #metoo protests. It wasnt racist then, it isn’t racist now. Not supporting the blocking of streets to protest =/= make one racist.

    • Steven says:

      Really sucks how you need to be sensitive about racism toward black folks. I mean, is anything even happening to them? It’s not like racist attitudes are resulting in them being killed in the streets without cause! Oh wait…

  8. STEVE says:

    His quip MAY have been just a joke… but IF SO it was DEFINITELY IN POOR TASTE. That said, he is a master at what he does. Does he need to share the same beliefs as his employer? Did he really say anything racist? I am ALL FOR EQUALITY 100% I am also not going to get behind canning everyone that makes a stupid comment unless it is intended to divide us -US !!! We are ALL GODS CHILDREN!
    PS – I LIKE GUITARS…. BLACK AND WHITE AND EVERY OTHER COLOR… they are all pink on the inside!!!!

    • CKDexterHaven says:

      You are suggesting that, because he’s good at a craft, he should have the license to promote a message of hate, intolerance, and violence that reflects on his personal association with his brand/employer?

      I’m not sure how you don’t see that message as being intended to divide us. God’s children shouldn’t be mowed down by a Jeep when trying to promote social change toward equality.

      No, one does not need to share the same beliefs as your employer. But when your name is on the products, promotions, and marketing, you are a brand ambassador and representative of that company. With that comes responsibility. To not harm the image of that company.

    • Joseph says:


  9. Sam says:

    Seems like Cruz wasn’t familiar with Fender’s social media policy or he was and now he is suffering the consequences of violating that policy. As a master builder at Fender, Cruz has an elevated public persona and as an (ex) employee of Fender he is representing Fender, whether he likes it or not.
    Fender is a multimillion $ company that has a vested interest in appealing to a very wide and diverse demographic. The custom shop may be niche but those niche buyers probably have a very low tolerance for anything that distracts from the quality of the product.
    Seems a lot of folks commenting on here that seem to be upset about Cruz getting canned don’t understand the calculations that go in to firing employees that have an elevated public persona in massive company. Look at the pinned tweet on Fender’s twitter. Then tell me that what Cruz did doesn’t fly in the face of that statement. Fender’s calculation in firing him was a cost/benefit analysis. The cost of keeping him on and facing even more unwanted attention for that decision in a very niche, very exclusive sector of the their business clearly outweighs the benefit of having that skilled labor – not to mention the impact that would have on their employee culture.
    For those commenting that this is just Fender bending to the will of SJW or outrage culture and that you wont buy another guitar from Fender; you are in the minority and you probably weren’t buying guitars from Fender’s custom shop anyhow.

  10. Thomas says:

    Kudos to Fender??? Are you #$@! kidding me?? Once again the Radical Left’s intolerance of Freedom of speech! It just has to be any speech that the Left disagrees with. When your personal feelings trump reason. So sad what this country has become! FU Fender! Seriously!

    • Sam says:

      As this comment gets down voted in to oblivion, I thought i’d offer this reply. Freedom of Speech means you are free to say what you want (mostly) – but you are not free from the consequences of your speech. Now, if the FBI arrested Cruz and jailed him for posting that dumb picture, that would be a violation of his constitutional right to freedom of speech.

      Kind of like how protesters are being arrested for voicing their beliefs. And if you really value freedom of speech, that’s what would concern you. But you aren’t – you’re just concerned that your ancient viewpoints and belief systems are now unpopular.

    • Earl says:

      Freedom of speech is the right to express yourself free of restraint by the government. I repeat, the government. Fender is not the government. Educate yourself before you make any more a fool of yourself.

    • Truth says:

      Poor guy. Did the left fire him? Or some rich white guys. Take it up with them.

    • OmegaWave says:

      You just appear so incredibly ignorant. Are you trying to claim that a billion dollar corporation is the radical left? Are you claiming that nobody ever offended you to a point that you responded? Why are you confusing freedom of speech with employer restrictions? Do you really think freedom of speech will protect your job if you speak in graphic detail about the porn you watched last night? I mean just super simple basics, and you’re absolutely clueless, really?

    • Joseph says:

      “The left” dissagrees with racism…I’m comfortable with that.

  11. Gorki says:

    i heard they all farted loudly during the discussion

  12. Sad, that people are referring to that meme as ‘just a distasteful joke.’ Those people are the type most resistant to cultural evolution. Those people who seem to believe there was ever such a thing as “freedom of speech.” Not sure how education failed them so profoundly. There have always been consequences attached to one’s words. And when your name is associated with a major international long-standing historically-prominent brand, with an equity in the hundreds of millions of dollars, you have to recognize that you are a representative of that company. Fender could not continue to employ someone who promoted an image of hate and violence, even if you disregard racial implications. As for ‘giving in to the mob,’ well, that’s one of those ignorant, naive, Internet tough guy ‘perspectives.’ If you were the CEO and saw that your company’s fortunes would be affected by a representation of attitudes which you abhorred, you’d do the same thing.

    Evolving as a society ought to be the objective of us all. But too many people hold the narcissistic view that the way they grew up is ‘fine’ for everyone else into perpetuity. But progressive, inclusive perspectives are what stopped people from burning women as witches, eliminated slavery, gave women the right to vote….

    • 9jwzf says:

      I learned a long time ago a principle isn’t a principle unless it costs you something. Cruz lost. Fender will lose. It’s all fair.

  13. I hope he has been better at retaining his ‘coin’ than he has been at retaining his common sense.
    I suspect, when it comes to controversy with Fender corp., there is more to the story than meets the eye. His post was likely the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’.
    Kind of sad. But, their swift and decisive action is to be heralded. Especially, when one thinks about the role Hendrix and so many other black musicians have played over the years in making the Fender name what it is today.

  14. Not having seen the actual post I wonder would he have been better off asking permission to post his private business before posting? IMHO I think if someone wants authorized permission for my posts they can just keep on dreaming. You don’t like my opinion? Don’t read it, mind your own business. You don’t want someone like me around? Hope it holds up in court. Otherwise I don’t stay where I’m not wanted. With his skills he might launch a line of his own making more money than the ungrateful employer he made much richer off his talents.

    • OmegaWave says:

      Don’t read your opinion? Well, I couldn’t care less about your ignorance but your employer will.

  15. Adam Read says:

    What a load of crap ! It was just a joke. It is not racist. There were people of all colour protesting. This should not have cost him his job. Fender ought to be ashamed of themselves.

    • Ross says:

      Sadly, we have all lost our ability to laugh at ourselves, because people with no sense of humour are taking literally, everything that suits them, and turning it into a race issue. I’m the first to stand up for equality of race and gender, and cringe when I hear Trumpesque comments about females, Mexicans, Africans and every other group he’s had a pot shot at.
      I can’t comment on what Cruz said or didn’t say, or it’s context, as I wasn’t there…. I suggest many of you do the same.

  16. Killisnoo says:

    We have Fender Pre-CBS
    Fender CBS
    Fender 70’s era
    Fender PC era (Politically Correct)

    • Guitar insider says:

      Fender is going through a financial crisis and had to layoff like 120 of their US-based employees in the last couple of months due to COVID 19. No concerts, shows, or other venues mean not much demand for guitars, and especially no need for custom guitars. Bad move, then your name is on the list.

  17. Pat Donofrio says:

    Trying times like what faces us these days require the best we can summon from within us. I have one overarching thought that comes to mind and it is penance (maybe remorse, or a heartfelt apology). John, I’ve followed your long career even owning a guitar you built 16 years ago having read interviews and watched your video subjects. Rehabilitating yourself and achieving reconciliation with Fender brass might involve taking the very people hurt by the hurtful post under your tutelage in an apprenticeship capacity to climb back to the stature you held. Nothing more to say except please find a way to heal the rift.

  18. Gorki says:

    Was his post reliced or not?

  19. The bassist, Gregor Fris, who got Master Builder Cruz fired, says he didn’t want this. YES he did. That’s why he contacted Fender. Fris apparently deems himself perfect and finds power in being a tattle tale critic. We have a 1st amendment.

    • Guest says:

      What do you expect from a “Bass” player? How else would anyone ever know who he is?

    • Juggernaut says:

      And sadly you have no idea what that amendment constitutes if you bring it up in this context where it has no relation whatsoever. Kind of embarrassing to be schooled like this from someone over here in Europe, huh?

  20. Thomas Aglen says:

    Gibson (in the bunker): “I think we’ve done the best we can to alienate our base over nonsensical actions”
    Fender : “Hold my Beer!”

  21. BLM says:

    Wow, lots of inbred halfwits in this thread defending this human turd!

    If this is at all representative of this site’s readership (as opposed to a vocal minority of stupid hillbillies) then I guess it might be time to find another news source…

    • Hans-Olav Molde says:

      It surely isn’t at all representative of this site’s editorial content. It’s a great news source in my opinion, with a positive writing style that always leaves me in a good mood. Let’s hope it actually is a vocal minority that speaks up now that their values are attacked.

  22. Kolrabi says:

    Werden seine Modelle nun günstiger angeboten?

  23. I’m saddened to see so many hateful commentators. Let’s remember that it is the attitudes and beliefs of the haters that are under attack, so it’s only natural they come out to defend their stand, I guess. We need more lovers in this world.

  24. Joe Biden says:

    So now anyone who has a John Cruz built guitar is supporting his racist white supremacist views and is guilty by association. I hear the 50’s style Strats and Teles are exceptionally tainted. DM me if you own one as I can assist with a 100% eco-friendly removal.

  25. RTL says:

    Fire all the racists. They’ve no place at Fender (nor any other company).

    And if you don’t think what he posted is racist… well, guess what that says about you.

  26. Looks like fender has followed the P.C. “culture” of distasting our everyday lives. What’s deplorable is infringement on a person’s rights. What’s going on is an investment strategy to make all metro areas for ONLY WEALTHY. It’s shocking that any business operates “properly” under the finder “strategy”

    • Jaggernaut says:

      Lol, which infringement, please? Nobody are protected from employment consequences of their stupid actions. Did you even go to school at all?

  27. Jackal says:

    Absolutely ridiculous. The SJW’s are cheering now, but I wonder what is going to happen when they post a “joke” leading to their lives being ruined.

  28. Bob Clifford says:

    I don’t think it’s fair for a website with ‘news’ in the title (yeah, I know it’s just music, but still…) to post things saying such and such a person said something so terrible he should be shunned, but we won’t repeat what it is. If what he posted was so abhorrent (and it very well might be) then we all should see it and we can arrive at the decision like adults. But when you don’t post the relevant information it just feeds the narrative that there is a cancel culture in which debate is stifled (which is dumb because, as I’ve said, he may very well have deserved to get fired). But if you don’t report things properly, and don’t treat your readers like intelligent grownups who can make their own decisions, then you are advancing no cause other than distrust. I’m not trying to set fire to the internet or call you names, but I am suggesting that if we are meant to be having a ‘dialogue’ about certain issues we can’t be afraid to mention what one side of the conversation is because some idiot might agree with it and we can’t allow that.