Various companies have been publicly praised or shunned during the past 18 months in response to their approach to then-candidate and now President Donald Trump.
But when the CEO of Baltimore-based sports apparel brand Under Armour shared his opinion about the president on CNBC this week, many called out his lack of sensitivity for failing to appreciate that not only is he representing his company, employees and stakeholders, but also numerous partners with whom Under Armour has endorsement deals and who may not necessarily agree with praise for Trump.
“I think [President Trump] is highly passionate.To have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country. People can really grab that opportunity,”said44-year-old Under Armour founder and CEOKevin Plank in an interview Tuesday on CNBC’s“Fast Money Halftime Report.”
“He loves to build but I don’t think there’s any surprises here. When you look at the president he wants to build thingshe wants to make bold decisions and be really decisive. I’m a big fan of people that operate in the world of publish and iterate versus think, think, think, think, think. So there’s a lot that I respect there.”
In light of the president’s imposed travel ban, divisive rhetoric on immigration and a seeming disregard for diversity and inclusion, there was immediate backlash on Twitter against Plank’s statements. The hashtag #BoycottUnderArmour began trending.
The company whose 10-memberboard of directorsis all white and only hasone woman has an estimated net worth of$16.2 billionin largepartbecause it is endorsed by top diverse athletes, some of whom do not support Trump.
Actorand professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who partnered with Under Armour in 2016to release“Project Rock,”amotivational lifestyle brand, said Plank’s “words were divisive and lacking in perspective.”
In a statement Thursday on Instagram, Johnson said the CEO’s views do not reflect his own:
“I appreciate and welcome the feedback from people who disagree (and agree) with Kevin Plank’s words on CNBC, but these are neither my words, nor my beliefs.
“His words were divisive and lacking in perspective. Inadvertently creating a situation where the personal political opinions of UA’s partners and its employees were overshadowed by the comments of its CEO.
“A good company is not solely defined by its CEO. A good company is not defined by the athlete or celebrity who partners with them. A good company is not a single person. A good company is a team, a group of brothers and sisters committed to working together each and every day to provide for their families and one another and the clients they serve.
“We don’t partner with a brand casually. I partner with brands I trust and with people who share my same values. That means a commitment to diversity, inclusion, community, open-mindedness and some serious hard work. But it doesn’t mean that I or my team will always agree with the opinion of everyone who works there, including its executives. Great leaders inspire and galvanize the masses during turbulent times, they don’t cause people to divide and disband.
“My responsibility here is not only to the global audience we serve, but also to the thousands of workers who pour blood, sweat, and tears into making Under Armour strong. A diverse group of hardworking men and women who possess integrity, respect and compassion for one another and the world they live in.
“Debate is healthy. But in a time of widespread disagreement, so is loyalty. I feel an obligation to stand with this diverse team, the American and global workers, who are the beating heart and soul of Under Armour and the reason I chose to partner with them.
“My commitment is as real as my sweat and callouses that thicken daily. #CommittedToThePeople.”
“The one topic I’ve never backed away from speaking openly about is the importance of diversity and inclusion” Misty Copeland
The photo of Misty Copeland that accompanied her INSTAGRAM post.
MistyCopeland made history on June 30, 2015, by becoming the first Black woman in the American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) 75-year history promoted to principal dancer. Copeland’s high-profile achievement made her a role model for girls, especially young Black girls, as she promotes diversity in ballet.
Under Armour saw that Copeland was a rising star and signed her to an endorsement deal in 2014.
Copeland also issued a statement Thursday on Instagram stating she “strongly disagrees” with Plank’s comments about Trump.
“I have always appreciated the great support and platform that Under Armour has given me to represent my community, gender, and career on the world stage. However, I strongly disagree with Kevin Plank’s recent comments in support of Trump as recently reported.
“Those of you who have supported and followed my career know that the one topic I’ve never backed away from speaking openly about is the importance of diversity and inclusion. It is imperative to me that my partners and sponsors share this belief.
Misty Copeland’s talent is self-evident. How she became principal ballerina is a story of her success in building a team.
“I have spoken at length with Kevin privately about the matter, but as someone who takes my responsibility as a role model very seriously, it is important to me that he, and UA, take public action to clearly communicate and reflect our common values in order for us to effectively continue to work towards our shared goal of trying to motivate ALL people to be their best.”
Stephen Curry, point guard of the2015 NBA World Champion Golden State Warriors, is considered the face of Under Armour. The company signed Curry in 2013, and his endorsement generates perhaps$14 billionof its income.
He made a strong response to Plank calling Trump an “asset” for the country.
“I agree with that description,” Curry toldThe Mercury NewsWednesday. “If you remove the ‘et.‘”
He said, “I spent all day yesterday on the phone with countless people at Under Armour, countless people in Kevin Plank’s camp, my team, trying to understand what was going on and where everybody stood on the issue.
“Based off the release that KP sent out this morning, and what he told me last night, that’s the Under Armour that I know. That’s the brand I know he’s built and one that, as of Wednesday afternoon, is something that I’m standing on.”
Under Armourreleased a statementWednesday explaining that it hasengaged 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.”
Plank was recently invited at the request of Trump to join the American Manufacturing Council.
“He joined CEOs from companies such as Dow Chemical, Dell[No. 28on theDiversityInc Top 50 Companieslist], Ford, GE and Tesla, among others to begin an important dialogue around creating jobs in America. We believe it is important for Under Armour to be a part of that discussion,” the company stated.
“We engage in policy, not politics. 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.”
Lastly, the company stated diversity is its strength:
“At Under Armour, our diversity is our strength, and we will continue to advocate for policies that Protect Our House, our business, our team, and our community.”
But that diversity does not include its leadership.