Wall Street Journal
By Sara Germano
February 15, 2017
Under Armour Inc.’s founder and chief executive Kevin Plank said he would publicly fight President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban, seeking to limit potential fallout from his comments last week in support of Mr. Trump.
In a full-page advertisement in the Baltimore paper, the city where Under Armour is based, Mr. Plank said his company supports immigration and equal rights. In anticipation of a new executive order, Mr. Plank said Under Armour “would join a coalition of companies in opposition to any new actions that negatively impact our team, their families or our community.”
Mr. Plank has been criticized for remarks last week in a television interview where he said he respected President Trump’s willingness to make bold decisions.
“To have such a pro-business President is something that is a real asset for the country,” Mr. Plank said on CNBC.
The remarks prompted some of the company’s top athletes, including basketball star Stephen Curry and ballerina Misty Copeland, to voice concerns about Mr. Plank’s comments. Neither athlete has called for action against Under Armour, but some groups have called for a boycott of the company’s products.
Sam Poser, an analyst at Susquehanna Financial, downgraded his rating on the company Wednesday to “negative” from “neutral”, saying the comments could hurt Under Armour’s ability to “build a cool urban lifestyle brand in the foreseeable future.”
“We believe the decision to express a view in today’s highly charged political climate was a mistake,” they wrote. “Reputational damage to Under Armour appears to be done, and such damage may have lasting effects on brand perception and, ultimately, sales in our view.”
Federal courts have blocked the executive order that suspended the U.S. refugee program and temporarily barred visitors and immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries. The administration argued it was needed to stop terrorists from entering the country. White House officials have said they are examining several options, including issuing a new executive order.
Wednesday’s open letter is the second time Under Armour has sought to clarify Mr. Plank’s comments. Last week, the company said it advocates for fair trade, tax reform and “an inclusive immigration policy that welcomes the best and the brightest.”
Chief rival Nike Inc. over the weekend launched an advertising campaign promoting equality, a couple of weeks after Chief Executive Mark Parker issued a letter to employees saying he didn’t support President Trump’s executive order.
New Balance Athletic Inc. faced backlash in November after its public affairs officer expressed support for Mr. Trump’s stance on free-trade agreements. Many large sportswear makers, including Under Armour, use overseas manufacturers to make footwear and other products.
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