Facing a backlash after its CEO praised President Donald Trump, Under Armour said: "We engage in policy, not politics."
Under Armour founder Kevin Plank responded Wednesday to criticism sparked by his comments last week about President Donald J. Trump, addressing the company's hometown of Baltimore to stress personal and brand values such as diversity, equal rights and opportunity.
"In a business television interview last week, I answered a question with a choice of words that did not accurately reflect my intent," wrote Plank, company chairman and CEO. "I want to clarify for our
hometown exactly the values for which Under Armour and I stand."
In the interview a week ago on CNBC, Plank praised the president's pro-business philosophy, saying Trump "wants to make bold decisions and be decisive" and that having "such a pro-business president is something that's a real asset to this country. People should grab that opportunity."
Plank sits with other business executives on a manufacturing advisory panel assembled by Trump that is working to develop innovative ways to support American manufacturing.
A social media backlash flared after Plank's comments were widely reported. Some consumers, many opposed to Trump's controversial executive order to suspend refugee admissions and temporarily bar travelers from seven mostly Muslim countries, vowed to boycott Under Armour sports apparel. Three of the brand's top athlete endorsers, including NBA star Stephen Curry, ballerina Misty Copeland and actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson tweeted opposition to Plank's comments, with Johnson calling his words "divisive."
Others rallied in support, tweeting their appreciation of support of pro-business policies and vowing to buy more Under Armour clothing.
Plank's comments in Wednesday's letter marked the first personal public response from the CEO. The company had issued two separate statements last week, the first stressing the company's desire for fair trade, tax reform and an inclusive immigration policy," and another on Friday saying the company opposes the administration's travel ban.
"I personally believe that immigration is the foundation of our country's exceptionalism," Plank said in the letter.
The letter made no mention of Trump as Plank instead wrote of his own values and those of the company.
"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..." Plank said. "In a time of division, we aspire to be a force of unity, growth and optimism for our city and our country."
His letter repeated many of the ideas in the company's statements last week, such as a desire to expand the nation's manufacturing capacity and to see building focus on investments in technology, education and infrastructure in cities such as Baltimore.
But Plank, saying actions speak louder than words, also announced plans to join a coalition of companies in opposition to "any new actions that negatively impact our team, our neighbors or their families."
Calling entrepreneurship "one of the greatest American attributes," Plank recalled moving his then two-year-old company with two employees to Baltimore in 1998.
Under Armour now employes 14,000 people globally and reported $4.8 billion in sales last year. It has committed to staying in the city. Plank's development company, Sagamore Development Co., plans to build a new global headquarters and campus next to 42 blocks of new housing, retail and office space, a $5.5 billion project south of Interstate 95 in Port Covington.
Plank last penned a letter to the city, which also ran as a full-page ad in The Sun, in September to tout the economic benefits of that project. Plank said the project would help the city with billions in private investments and thousands of jobs.
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That commitment has extended to other city investments, Plank said Wednesday.
Those include opening the UA House at Fayette community center in East Baltimore in November with the Ravens and Living Classrooms, creating a manufacturing bootcamp at the Foundery in Port Covington to train city residents and opening UA Lighthouse, a manufacturing research facility at Port Covington last summer.
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"We have made an extraordinary commitment to Baltimore," Plank wrote, "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."