Under Armour CEO and University of Maryland alumnus Kevin Plank responded to his controversial statements praising President Trump with an open letter to Baltimore on Wednesday.
Plank had commended Trump in a Feb. 7 interview with CNBC, saying “such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country.” His statements were immediately met with backlash, with many people taking to social media to voice their concerns.
Taking out a full-page ad in The Baltimore Sun more than a week later, Plank wrote that Under Armour stands for equal rights and that his statement on CNBC did not reflect his intent.
“We stand firmly for equal rights,” Plank wrote in the letter. “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.”
Several Under Armour representatives, including Steph Curry, Misty Copeland and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, have denounced Plank’s Feb. 7 comments. Johnson called the remarks “divisive.”
“I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et’ from ‘asset,'” Curry told the San Jose Mercury News, adding he’d spent countless hours on the phone with people from the company to “understand what was going on.”
The White House website published a statement Jan. 27 announcing Plank would join Trump and other business leaders to discuss his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, which works to develop innovative ways to support American manufacturing and promote job growth.
Some consumers, many of whom opposed Trump’s travel ban — which temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. — pledged to boycott Under Armour because of the CNBC interview, The Sun reported.
Last week, Under Armour issued two statements after the interview clarifying the company is against Trump’s travel ban, writing “immigration is a source of strength, diversity and innovation for global companies based in America like Under Armour.”
Plank’s open letter Wednesday also reaffirmed Under Armour’s opposition to the travel ban. On Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously to uphold a block on the ban.
“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,” Plank wrote.
Plank also wrote about Under Armour’s efforts to invest in Baltimore and hire locally, citing the opening of the UA House at Fayette in East Baltimore in November. The center, created through a partnership with the Baltimore Ravens and the Living Classrooms Foundation, is part of a greater plan to revitalize East Baltimore through educational, recreational and workforce-oriented programs, according to a Baltimore Business Journal article.
Plank has donated tens of millions of dollars to this university, including $25 million for the renovation of the Cole Field House complex. This university and Under Armour also signed a 10-year contract extension in 2014, giving this university nearly $33 million.
“We are always mindful of the responsibility that we have to those who choose our brand,” Plank wrote. “I can promise you that we will never compromise these values. We will continue to stand for equality, diversity and opportunity for all.”