Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank (l); Misty Copeland, Stephen Curry, Dwayne Johnson (photos via thegrio.com)
article via thegrio.com
BALTIMORE (AP) — The CEO of Baltimore-based sports apparel company Under Armour is responding to criticism he received after calling President Donald Trump “an asset to the country.” Kevin Plank wrote an open letter to Baltimore published as a full-page advertisement in The Baltimore Sun Wednesday.
He wrote that his choice of words during an interview with CNBC last week “did not accurately reflect my intent.” Three celebrities the company sponsors — basketball star Stephen Curry, actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and ballerina Misty Copeland — were among those voicing concerns about his praise of Trump.
Plank says the company stands for equal rights and job creation and believes “immigration is a source of strength, diversity and innovation for global companies based in America.” He says the company opposes the president’s travel ban.
Some of Under Armour’s biggest celebrity endorsers – ballet dancer Misty Copeland, NBA star Stephen Curry and Hollywood icon Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—are speaking out against the apparel brand’s CEO for referring to Donald Trump as “a real asset” to American businesses.
In an interview earlier this week with CNBC, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank shared several positive thoughts about Trump as a leader and supporter of corporations: “He’s highly passionate. To have such a pro-business president is something that’s a real asset to this country,” Plank said on Halftime Report. “I think people should really grab that opportunity. … He wants to build things. He wants to make bold decisions, and he wants to be decisive. I’m a big fan of people who operate in the world of ‘publish and iterate’ versus ‘think, think, think, think.’ so there’s a lot that I respect there.”
His comments led to a flurry of criticisms on Twitter and have now percolated to some of the brand’s top star athletes and performers. Copeland, star of the brand’s iconic “I Will What I Want” ad, uploaded a lengthy post to Instagram today. While she praises the brand for supporting her over the years, Copeland did not mince words about Trump. “I strongly disagree with Kevin Plank’s recent comments in support of Trump as recently reported,” she wrote in the Instagram post. “Those of you who have supported and followed my career know that the one topic I’ve never backed away from speaking openly about is the importance of diversity and inclusion. It is imperative to me that my partners and sponsors share this belief.”
She said she has spoken with Plank privately about his opinions in great detail but that, “as someone who takes my responsibility as a role model very seriously, it is important to me that he, and UA, take public action to clearly communicate and reflect our common values in order for us to effectively continue to work towards our shared goal of trying to motivate ALL people to be their best selves.”
With more than 10 million views, Copeland’s Under Armour ad from 2014 was a huge hit for the brand and resonated across the industry as an example of how marketing could celebrate strong women. Since the ad debuted, Copeland developed her own Under Armour clothing line, appeared on the cover of Time magazine and was named by the American Ballet Theater as its first African-American principal dancer. She hasn’t been alone in criticizing the brand’s founder and top executive.
Another major endorser for the brand, Golden State Warriors point guard Curry, also spoke out against Plank, although less directly than Copeland. When asked by The Mercury News about Plank’s description of Trump as “a real asset,” Curry responded by saying, “I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et’ from asset.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson also posted his response to Plank on Instagram. “These are neither my words, nor my beliefs,” Johnson writes. “His words were divisive and lacking in perspective. Inadvertently creating a situation where the personal political opinions of UA’s partners and its employees were overshadowed by the comments of its CEO.”
PORTLAND, Ore. — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry became the first unanimous NBA Most Valuable Player on Tuesday, winning the award for a second straight season. Curry swept all 131 first-place votes, including 130 from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters and one from the Kia MVP fan vote. San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was second in the voting, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry‘s greatness as a basketball player can be measured by his record-setting shooting numbers that are changing the game. His immense popularity derives from something less tangible.
While many NBA greats rely on uncommon height and athletic ability that average fans can only dream of having, Curry’s game relies on the skills that every casual player can work on: shooting, dribbling and passing.
The difference is, perhaps nobody ever has put those three skills together the same way Curry has in the past year, as he has dominated on the court and made the once-downtrodden Golden State Warriors the NBA’s must-watch team.
“The way that I play has a lot of skill but is stuff that if you go to the YMCA or rec leagues or church leagues around the country, everybody wants to shoot, everybody wants to handle the ball, make creative passes and stuff like that,” he said. “You can work on that stuff. Not everybody has the vertical or the physical gifts to be able to go out and do a windmill dunk and stuff like that. I can’t even do it.”
That’s about all Curry is unable to do on the basketball court. His amazing year, in which he won an MVP, led Golden State to its first title in 40 years and helped the Warriors get off to a record-setting start this season earned him The Associated Press 2015 Male Athlete of the Year.
Curry finished first in a vote by U.S. editors and news directors, with the results released Saturday. He joined LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as the only basketball players to win the honor in the 85 years of the award. Curry beat out golfer Jordan Spieth, who won two majors, and American Pharoah, who became the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown.
While American Pharoah got three more first-place votes than Curry’s 24, Curry appeared on 86 percent of the 82 ballots that ranked the top five candidates. More than one-third of the voters left American Pharoah off their list.
“That’s a real honor,” Curry said. “I’m appreciative of that acknowledgement because it’s across all different sports. … It’s pretty cool.”
The National Basketball Association, alarmed by the death toll from shootings across the country, is stepping into the polarizing debate over guns, regulation and the Second Amendment with an advertising campaign in partnership with one of the nation’s most aggressive advocates of stricter limits on firearm sales.
The first ads, timed to reach millions of basketball fans during a series of marquee games on Christmas Day, focus on shooting victims and contain no policy recommendations. The words “gun control” are never mentioned.
The N.B.A.’s involvement suggests that a bloody year of gun deaths — in highly publicized mass shootings and countless smaller-scale incidents — may be spurring even some generally risk-averse, mainstream institutions to action.
Players who appear in the first 30-second ad, which will run five times on Friday, speak in personal terms about the effects of gun violence on their lives. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors describes hearing of a 3-year-old’s shooting: “My daughter Riley’s that age,” he says. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers recalls the advice he heeded as a child: “My parents used to say, ‘A bullet doesn’t have a name on it.’”
The N.B.A. said it held little internal debate about working with Mr. Bloomberg’s group. “We know far too many people who have been caught up in gun violence in this country,” said Kathleen Behrens, the league’s president of social responsibility and player programs. “And we can do something about it.”
But the decision may prove tricky for the league: While many of its teams are based in cities dominated by Democrats, a number of other teams — and millions of N.B.A. fans — hail from places where Mr. Bloomberg and his approach to guns are viewed with deep suspicion. Ms. Behrens said the league had not shown the ads to team owners, but added, “We’re not worried about any political implications.”
The Bloomberg-N.B.A. partnership was brokered by an unlikely figure: Spike Lee, a member of Everytown’s creative council, whose latest film, “Chi-Raq,” set on Chicago’s South Side, confronts gun violence with an unflinching eye.
Over breakfast at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan in November, not long before the movie was released earlier this month, Mr. Lee proposed the idea for the ads to John Skipper, the president of ESPN, who then took it to Adam Silver, the N.B.A.’s commissioner. Mr. Lee insisted on the participation of Everytown, with which he collaborated on a protest march down Broadway after the film’s New York premiere.
In an interview, he sounded many of the themes that Mr. Bloomberg himself has emphasized in the past, saying it was time for “common sense anti-gun laws.”
“But because of the N.R.A., politicians and the gun manufacturers, we’re dying under that tyranny,” Mr. Lee said.
Mr. Bloomberg’s interventionist policies as mayor and his left-leaning tactics on guns have earned the vitriol of gun-rights advocates, who have mocked him with TV ads as an out-of-touch elitist.
It may have taken them longer than usual, but Nike knows a good thing when it sees it regarding Kevin Durant.
According to reports, the shoemaker put an end to speculation of the NBA star jumping ship to Under Armour by presenting a deal with an overall value that could rise to $300 million or more if his business continues to rise.
Under Armor’s deal with Durant, which he was on the verge of signing, involved an offer between $265 million and $285 million. Considering a possible transition to the Washington Wizards when he becomes a free agent after the 2015-16 season, Oklahoma City Thunder fans were a bit on edge about the move to Under Armour.
Sources tell ESPN that Nike countered it’s rival’s deal with its high-value offer to Durant and the belief that it will keep the Oklahoma City Thunder star for the next 10 years. Durant’s current seven-year deal with Nike for a guaranteed $60 million is expiring. Initially, the company, offered Durant about $20 million a year in a deal that was far from what he had in mind. Hence, the appeal of Under Armor.
ESPN reports that Nike officials told Durant and his team at Jay Z‘s Roc Nation Sports on Saturday that it would step up enough to allow Nike to keep him in its robust stable of basketball endorsers that includes LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Although the exact Nike offer for Durant isn’t known, sources revealed to ESPN that Durant should make more — in base and royalties — than the Thunder will pay him over the next two seasons ($41.2 million).
Despite the big payday, sources close to Durant say the decision of which company he would align with weighed on him. A return to Nike, the sources noted, comes with a sense of relief because Durant can still make significant money without being associated with the risks of Under Armour’s fledgling shoe business.
SportsOneSource, a market retail-tracking firm, noted that Durant’s signature “KD” shoes made $175 million at retail this past year. Although Nike had used the “KD” logo since 2008, the company was granted the trademark for the brand in January.
With Durant staying with Nike, Under Armour now finds itself back at square one. The shoe company, which acquired Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curryaway from Nike last year, missed out on Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who returned to the Jordan brand.