Nothing is politics-free these days – not even sports gear.
The lines in the sand have been clearly drawn between those who have spoken up to defend equality and those who are staying silent.
A majority of coaches and athletes have been vocal, criticizing a divisive president’s executive orders affecting Muslims, women and immigrants as well as his overarching offensive rhetoric.
Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank hasn’t been one of those figures.
Plank, who has been invited to Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, recently praised the commander in chief, saying that having “such a pro-business president is something that’s a real asset for this country.”
He’s entitled to his own opinion and actions – but so are the athletes and schools that wear his brand and fall under the Under Armour umbrella.
NBA star Steph Curry, ballerina Misty Copeland and former professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are some of the biggest faces of Plank’s company.
They’re also some of his most vocal critics after he voiced support for Trump.
Curry said he agreed with Plank “if you remove the ‘et’ from asset” before elaborating to the San Jose Mercury News.
“Are we doing things that are going to look out for everybody? And not being so self-serving that it’s only about making money. That’s not the priority,” Curry said. “If I can say the leadership is not in line with my core values, then there is no amount of money, there is no platform I wouldn’t jump off if it wasn’t in line with who I am. That’s a decision I will make every single day when I wake up.”
Copeland followed suit, saying that she and Curry both spoke with executives about Under Armour’s commitment to equality.
I have always appreciated the great support and platform that Under Armour has given me to represent my community, gender, and career on the world stage. However, I strongly disagree with Kevin Plank’s recent comments in support of Trump as recently reported. 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. I have spoken at length with Kevin privately about the matter, but 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.
UCLA, which is set to become Under Armour’s West Coast flagship school this July, hasn’t been as vocal or decisive.
A spokesperson from the athletics department simply directed me to Under Armour’s generic statement, the company’s thinly veiled attempt at mitigating the backlash and talks of boycott by talking about the value of diversity and saying how they were against the travel ban.
For now, Plank hasn’t said anything more about Trump or about the potential loss of Curry, Copeland or Johnson.
But UCLA, despite the 15-year, $280 million apparel deal, should have spoken up and should be prepared to speak up and step away if Plank, with his position in the Trump administration, continues to side with one of the most divisive and controversial presidencies in American history.
Like Curry said – it’s about more than the money. It’s about the values and messages that UCLA aligns itself with.
One of the most diverse schools in one of the most diverse cities, in a diverse and progressive state, should not sit by and watch the fray.
Silence has not been an excuse and does not bode well for a legacy.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
UCLA is full of good people – student-athletes, professors, coaches, students and even huskies that can be found every afternoon at the Bruin Bear.
So I’ll be cheering on the Bruins next season.
But don’t expect me to be wearing any UCLA or Under Armour gear if both continue to stay silent.