- Golden State Warrior star Stephen Curry took umbrage at Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s positive comments about President Donald Trump, as reported by The Washington Post. Curry is one of the brand's biggest sponsor athletes.
- Plank referred to Trump as an "asset" and, among other critical comments, Curry said, "I agree with that description, if you remove the 'et.'"
- Ballet dancer Misty Copeland, another major Under Armour brand ambassador and the first African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, also took to Instagram to voice her displeasure at Plank’s comments. She said she has spoken with him privately on the matter "at length," per the Post.
While plenty of businesses have been slammed for Trump associations, criticism has often been most vocal coming from consumers in the form of hashtags and boycotts. Ambassadors might wield even more influence here, often being definitive to a brand's image and appeal, especially in the athletic apparel space.
Stephen Curry is Under Armour’s big fish at the moment and essentially put the brand on the lucrative basketball shoe playing field. Copeland, for her part, has been another noteworthy sponsored athlete, starring in Under Armour's stirring "I will what I want" campaign.
Plank defended his comments, to a degree, by saying he was coming from a business perspective, not strictly a political one. But brands can't assume that consumers or even ambassadors will make the distinction, and the safer route may be separating business and politics entirely lest they lose some of their biggest ambassadors on top of customers. Brands have been navigating uncertain waters throughout Trump's rise to the presidency, and a number have already fallen afoul of public opinion.
Uber came under fire recently when it was seen as breaking a taxi boycott of Trump's executive order regarding immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. CEO Travis Kalanick quit a spot on Trump's economic advisory council and the ride-hailing company went on the reputation management defensive against a #DeleteUber hashtag by consumers who were dropping the app in droves.
Last year, New Balance praised Trump for his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — again, more of a business position than anything — but still saw significant backlash on social media as its positive comments were seen as a wholesale endorsement of the now-president.