- Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is the latest executive at a major brand to face heat for a perceived endorsement of President Donald Trump. Less than one week after key brand ambassadors went public against the sentiments expressed by Plank, he has now released a statement against Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, as reported by Adweek.
- Plank had previously stated that having a businessman like Trump in the White House was an "asset," leading both basketball star Steph Curry and ballerina Misty Copeland to publicly criticize the CEO. Actor Dwayne Johnson also came out against the comments, per Adweek.
- Part of the Under Armour statement read, "We are against a travel ban and believe that immigration is a source of strength, diversity and innovation for global companies based in America like Under Armour."
Plank is the second big name CEO having to walk back a pro-Trump stance since the president's executive order was signed and subsequently shot down in appeals court. Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick recently quit a spot on Trump's economic advisory council after the ride-hailing brand faced a #DeleteUber hashtag that led to thousands of customers dumping the app.
While #DeleteUber was a seemingly grassroots, largely consumer-driven boycott, Plank feeling compelled to speak out against Trump's actions appeared to directly follow backlash from Copeland and Curry. These flashpoints highlight how vocal criticism on social media and elsewhere — from consumers and now ambassadors — has the potential to impact business and spur top executives to action.
While there was no boycott against Under Armour to rival #DeleteUber, Plank was likely trying to mitigate any such movement from gaining traction.
Both Uber and Under Armour's pivots are part of a reputation management strategy necessitated from wading into controversial topics and politics, in particular. Trump has consistently been seen as a highly-divisive force, more so after his election, and Under Armour and Uber aren’t alone in grappling with a growing wave of consumer backlash. New Balance caused an outcry after supporting Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.