On Tuesday, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank jumped head first into the choppy political waters in an interview with CNBC, in which he called President Trump “highly passionate” and a pro-business man who is a “real asset” for U.S. companies.
This is at a time when, on one side there’s the #grabmywallet movement gaining steam against brands and companies that support Trump policies or have any business with alt-right outlets like Breitbart, and on the other there’s the #MAGA crowd threatening to boycott brands like Budweiser and Starbucks who voice–or are perceived to voice in the case of Bud–a progressive or anti-Trump stance.
Between that and the President himself lobbing Twitter bombs at brands like Nordstrom and Boeing from the Oval Office, why would any CEO willingly wade in? Especially one heading up a brand like Under Armour, whose bread and butter are sports with an incredibly diverse pool of athletes? More than 70% of the NFL is non-white. About 74% of the NBA players are black. Almost 30% of Major League Baseball players are Latino. And you step out publicly in favor of a President who wants to build a wall, and named a guy Coretta Scott King thought was too racist as Attorney General? It’s no wonder Steph Curry told The Mercury News on Wednesday, “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.”
Curry also said he agreed with Plank’s description of Trump, “if you remove the ‘et’” from asset.
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
In that same CNBC interview, addressing the company’s falling stock price Plank said Under Armour had to change the narrative. Well, this probably wasn’t what he meant, but change it he did. His comments didn’t hurt the stock in any demonstrable way, but what Plank and Co. should be more concerned about is whether or not it will have any impact on sales, or the brand’s ability going forward to convince the future stars of young, diverse athletes to join its team.