Under Armour founder Kevin Plank became the second CEO to resign from President Donald J. Trump’s advisory jobs panel on Monday after the president was widely criticized for not quickly denouncing groups that marched at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend. Plank’s statement, issued Monday evening, made no mention of the president or the weekend events in Charlottesville, in which 19 people were injured and a woman was killed when a car plowed into counter-protesters. Another dozen or so people were injured in clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters and two state troopers were killed in a related helicopter crash. Plank said he joined the American Manufacturing Council in January because he believed it was important for Under Armour to “have an active seat at the table and represent our industry.” On Monday morning, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said he was leaving the manufacturing initiative.
“I am appreciative of the opportunity to have served, but have decided to step down from the council,” Plank said in a post on Twitter. “I love our country and our company, and will continue to focus my efforts on inspiring every person that they can do anything through the power of sport, which promotes unity, diversity and inclusion."
Total Retail's Take: Plank, and thus Under Armour, is distancing itself from politics — perhaps a wise move for the consumer brand considering today's volatile political environment. The retailer and manufacturer may be better served taking a back seat when it comes to taking political stands and action, including Plank's service on the Manufacturing Council. Earlier this year, Plank was criticized by some, including celebrity endorsers of the brand such as Stephen Curry and Misty Copeland, for his support of Trump, stating that having "such a pro-business president is something that's a real asset to this country." Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with President Trump's policies, are a Republican or Democrat, a solid argument can be made that retail executives should keep their political ideologies separate from their business dealings. Is speaking out worth potentially alienating a segment of your customers? That's a question retail executives must weigh.