Under Armour CEO Comes Out Against Trump Travel Ban. Read His Full Text Explanation.
After a week of controversy, the CEO says the words that sparked a boycott did not reflect his intent.
Today Kevin Plank, CEO of Baltimore-based sports apparel company Under Armour, published an open letter responding to the controversy that has dogged the company for a week.
The company came under fire for comments Plank made in an interview with CNBC about President Donald Trump -- comments that might have seemed benign at nearly any other time. He said a pro-business leader could be an asset and that he respected that the president wanted to make “bold decisions and be really decisive.”
Plank made his comments in a politically charged climate -- companies today face great scrutiny for supporting the president. The comments also followed backlash regarding a controversial executive order that banned and restricted travel for people from certain countries. High-profile business leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin came out against the order, saying it limited access to talent and could stifle innovation.
For Plank, the backlash was immediate. His comments sparked an Under Armour boycott as well as criticism from athletes and personalities who had endorsed the brand, such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and ballerina Misty Copeland.
This made a rocky time rockier, as Under Armour faces a lawsuit from investors who claim the company is misleading shareholders about its financial well-being.
The backlash led one analyst to downgrade the company's stock, saying that Plank's commentary damaged the company, making it “nearly impossible to effectively build a cool urban lifestyle brand in the foreseeable future.”
Today’s letter isn’t the first response the company has made regarding the controversy. An initial statement stressed the company’s support for diversity. The letter published today -- as a full-page ad in the company’s hometown paper The Baltimore Sun -- goes further. It walks back the statements that sparked the backlash. In the piece, Plank also publicly speaks out against the travel ban for the first time. The full text of the open letter ad is below.
In a business television interview last week, I answered a question with a choice of words that did not accurately reflect my intent. I want to clarify to our hometown exactly the values for which Under Armour and I stand.
Under Armour stands for opportunity. I believe one of the greatest American attributes is entrepreneurship, and I am incredibly proud of how the Under Armour story reflects this. I moved Under Armour to Baltimore in 1998 when it was a two-year-old company with two employees. Today we have 14,000 teammates across the world and are proud to call Baltimore our home. In our city, we stand for entrepreneurship, job creation and opportunity.
We also represent our teammates and our city through our Values:
We stand firmly for equal rights. Through our investment, hiring and in everything we do, we expect to be leaders in the advancement of all forms of diversity and gender equality.
We believe that immigration is a source of strength, diversity and innovation for global companies based in America like Under Armour. And I personally believe that immigration is the foundation of our country’s exceptionalism.
Once again, Under Armour stands for job creation. To that end, we believe in growing American manufacturing capability. We think building should focus on much-needed education, transportation, technology and infrastructure investment in cities like Baltimore.
At Under Armour, our culture is strong, and that culture is built by our people and by the values of how we operate our business. While stating our values is important, I also know that actions speak louder than words. So here is what we are doing:
We are publicly opposing the travel ban. With an anticipated new executive order on immigration set to come out, we will join a coalition of companies in opposition to any new actions that negatively impact our team, their families or our community.
We are taking other public positions on legislation around the country in support of the interests of our teammates whenever policy conflicts with human rights.
Our team, like our country, is diverse by race, religion, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation and point of view. In our city and at Under Armour, our diversity is our strength. In addition to what we are doing today, I believe that our values are also clearly demonstrated by what we have already done. First, we have made an extraordinary commitment to Baltimore, both by doubling down on our company’s presence and our investment in this city, and by making unprecedented commitments to education, workforce development and local hiring.
This past November in East Baltimore, in partnership with the Ravens and Living Classrooms, we opened the UA House at Fayette, a new 30,000 square foot multi-purpose community center for kids and families to learn, play and grow. The UA House provides opportunities not only for sport but access to entrepreneurship programs, community event spaces and a state-of-the-art recording studio.
We have also created a Manufacturing Bootcamp at The Foundery in Port Covington, where City residents with barriers to workforce entry are being trained in the skills they will need to build a good life. Every participant in our small pilot class has been hired, and the second class is now working toward the same goal, with more classes to follow.
And in 2016 we opened the UA Lighthouse, an advanced manufacturing research facility that is a step toward bringing more good jobs to America and making more of our products right here in Baltimore. These are just some of the initiatives we have undertaken on behalf of our community and those who call Baltimore home, and we are just getting started.
We are always mindful of the responsibility that we have to those who choose our Brand, especially the young people who represent the bold and bright future of a diverse and inclusive America.
Our Brand mission is to make all athletes better through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation. Our passion also extends to our teammates, our consumers and our community. We are always mindful of the responsibility that we have to those who choose our Brand, especially the young people who represent the bold and bright future of a diverse and inclusive America. While we will continue to engage with government to protect our teammates, our company and our city, I can promise you that we will never compromise these values. We will continue to stand for equality, diversity and opportunity for all. In a time of division, we aspire to be a force of unity, growth and optimism for our city and our country. I hope we will always make Baltimore proud.Kevin Plank
Founder, Chairman and CEO of Under Armour