Under Armour CEO’s support of Trump sets off firestorm
Facing a backlash after its CEO praised President Donald Trump, Under Armour said: “We engage in policy, not politics.”
On the same day that the social media channels heated up with calls for a boycott, Under Armour introduced its first apparel collection for one of its sponsored athletes.
Hours before the Baltimore-based sports brand unveiled its Inspired by Misty Copeland line, a Twitter backlash erupted after Under Armour chief executive officer Kevin Plank appeared on CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report” during which he expressed support for President Trump’s pro-America stance.
In an interview with the business network, Plank said: “To have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country. People can really grab that opportunity.
“He wants to build things. He wants to make bold decisions and be really decisive. I’m a big fan of people that operate in the world of ‘publish and interate’ versus ‘think, think, think, think, think.’ So there’s a lot of respect there.”
Plank was part of a group of business leaders in the American Manufacturing Council who met with Trump in the White House in late January to brainstorm about how to bring jobs back to America. Plank is personally investing billions in a redevelopment plan in his hometown of Baltimore and has opened an innovation lab at Under Armour as a way to bring employment back to the U.S. “We believe it is important for Under Armour to be a part of that discussion,” the company said.
In a statement, Under Armour stressed that it engages in “policy, not politics,” and has “engaged with both the prior and the current administrations in advocating on business issues that we believe are in the best interests of our consumers, teammates, and shareholders.
“We believe in advocating for fair trade, an inclusive immigration policy that welcomes the best and the brightest and those seeking opportunity in the great tradition of our country, and tax reform that drives hiring to help create new jobs globally, across America and in Baltimore.” It also pointed to how committed it is to domestic manufacturing and said its most recent women’s collection was produced in Baltimore. “We are incredibly proud of this important first step in the evolution of creating more jobs at home,” the statement said.
But as a result of the CNBC interview, some Twitter users said they had sold their stock and called on customers to boycott the brand. New Balance was faced with a similar conundrum in November when the company’s head of public affairs, Matthew LeBretton, told The Wall Street Journal: “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us, and, frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” That led to protests and people taking to social media calling for consumers to burn their sneakers.
The backlash against Plank’s comments today are simply the latest headache for the brand, which late last month saw its stock plummet 25 percent after it reported its weakest quarterly sales growth since the financial crisis. Plank admitted to missteps and revealed plans to return Under Armour to growth by focusing more on fashion – which presumably the new Misty Copeland collection fits in with. Under Armour’s shares were flat in pre-market trading today at $20.47.