Though we are both University of Maryland graduates, I don’t really know Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank. We’ve never met and we don’t travel in the same social circles, so I really shouldn’t presume to speak for him.
That said, I’m guessing Plank had no idea the proverbial hail storm he set off last week by paying a compliment to President Donald Trump.
During a CNBC interview, Plank said that having quote such a pro-business president is something that’s a real asset to the country unquote.
Who knows if Plank really believes what he was saying. Perhaps he was trying to curry favor with a new president who has proven quite willing to take on anyone he perceives as an opponent, even the head of an athletic apparel company.
Whatever the case, Plank’s statement touched off a bit of a firestorm, including among his endorsers.
Misty Copeland, the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater, called Plank on his quote, then called him out, saying it was important that her partners and sponsors share her belief in the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as the former wrestler turned actor, the Rock, called Plank’s remarks quote divisive and lacking in perspective unquote.
And then there’s Stephen Curry, the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and one of Under Armour’s highest profile athlete-endorsers.
When asked for his take on Plank’s reading of Trump as an asset, Curry quipped, quote, I agree with that description, if you remove the e-t unquote.
Curry’s position is not unusual among NBA personnel. Indeed, we’ve told you about stances taken by members of the league champion Cleveland Cavaliers and by three head coaches, the most noteworthy San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
Meanwhile, basketball players and coaches aren’t the only athletes to express disdain with the new president.
For instance, the Chicago Cubs rushed the White House ceremony to mark their first World Series title since 1908. It is true that former President Barack Obama is from the Windy City, but it’s also true that he is a noted White Sox fan.
And speaking of White House ceremonies, six members of the New England Patriots have already announced that they will not come to Washington with the rest of the team when President Trump welcomes them to celebrate their Super Bowl win.
Of course, the most visible Patriots player, quarterback Tom Brady, is a noted Trump fan, so he’ll almost certainly be in attendance in the Rose Garden sometime this year. And, he’s an Under Armour athlete, to boot.
So are Michael Phelps, golfer Jordan Spieth, Cam Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, so Under Armour seems well positioned, in a certain sense.
But if hostility toward Trump grows, Plank’s embrace of the president may become an albatross around his neck and his company’s bottom line, especially among young consumers and African-American athletes, groups not known to be fans of POTUS 45.
For now, Plank’s words are making more than a few folks rethink their sneaker purchases. I know I’ve put my Under Armours on the shelf, and I bet I’m not alone.
And that’s how I see it for this week.
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