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.”