Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s decision to abandon Trump’s manufacturing council in the wake of the president’s inability to rebuke his white nationalist base was a move of self-preservation, not taking the moral high ground. As a result, Steph Curry should reassess his stake in the brand.
In 2014, emerging N.B.A. superstar Steph Curry inked a Jordan-esque deal with Baltimore-based Under Armour that would give both rise to the brand’s profile and set the Golden State Warrior guard on his way as a stand-alone brand.
The 10-year extension with a company that, since its founding in 1996, had risen from knock-off Nike to the Beaverton, Oregon-based shoe giant’s chief rival, would also give Curry an equity stake in the company that projects to bring in $7.5 billion in sales by the end of 2017.
Nike, for its part, famously flubbed the Curry sweepstakes in 2013, first by giving Curry the same PowerPoint made for future teammate Kevin Durant (going so far as to forget to switch out the names on some slides) and then shortchanged Curry on the contract amount: Nike’s initial deal was an incentive-backed $2.5 million/year; Under Armour offered $4 million baseline.
The company released its first Curry signature shoe the next February, before the eventual league MVP Curry would lead the Warriors to its first NBA title in 40 years. The “Curry Twos” were released in Asia, where the Curry brand is juggernaut, the following summer. Based on early success Curry’s current deal is undisclosed, which extends through the 2024 season, stands to push him into the nine-figure stratosphere.
Kevin Plank, chief executive of Under Armour, was an early Trump supporter—a fact that Curry could not help but decry in the weeks following January’s inauguration. Plank in early February said that the president is an “asset” to the country, as storm clouds already started to gather just days into Trump’s tenure. Curry ran counter to that narrative and said, “I agree with that description,” Curry said, “if you remove the ‘et'” from asset.
In the wake of a week that is characterized as the worst ever for any president in modern history, Plank joined Merck’s Kenneth Frazier Monday night in announcing that he was stepping down from Trump’s manufacturing council. “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,” he wrote on Twitter.
Curry tweeted emoji approval of his CEO’s decision.
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) August 15, 2017
…Within the span of 96 hours, Trump kowtowed to (thanked!) a foreign dictator/adversary for expelling our diplomats, showed his true colors as a narcissist who has been obsessed with nukes for three decades by trying to coax conflict from another ruthless dictator and refused to condemn a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia even after a peaceful protester was run over by a white supremacist.
His weak and stilted repudiation of the events Monday only came after a flood of bipartisan outcry forced his hand. Had that not happened, he would have said nothing.
Trump’s top aides include Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, whose nationalist theories and Breitbart dog whistles are directly responsible for the rise of white supremacist Richard Spencer. Spencer characterized Trump’s Monday statement as “nonsense.” He told reporters “[only] a dumb person would take those lines seriously.” Spencer also said the president’s statement was not a rebuke of the white nationalist movement. “I don’t think he condemned it, no,” Spencer said. “Did he say ‘white nationalist?’ ‘Racist’ means an irrational hatred of people. …I don’t think he meant any of us.”
The white supremacist marchers have co-opted a number of sports-related brands/logos that they feel suit their cause. One is the Detroit Red Wings emblem which is used by a group that calls itself the “Detroit Right Wing’s” (motto: Rust Reforged!) who are “a Michigan-based group of Identitarians, an anti-immigrant vein of white nationalism that counts Richard Spencer among its proponents.”
The Red Wings were quick to denounce the group Saturday and are exploring legal actions to stop the use of their logo:
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) August 12, 2017
Under Armour has become a popular brand with white nationalists in the wake of Plank’s support for Trump and now many are upset that he’s bailed, expressing their displeasure on the tweets:
— SherriMutts4me (@mutts4me_sherri) August 15, 2017
Also, in the wake of Plank’s move, others are coming back to the consumer goods giant:
— Nicole Busch (@TheNikkiBusch) August 15, 2017
…Curry has a worldwide platform that occupies the most rarified air for all professional athletes. His level of play is buoyed by his intense likeability and his image as a field general on the court and a dedicated Christian family man off of it. His image, thus far in his career, untarnished.
That’s why it’s important for Curry to distance himself from a company that has been championed by white supremacists and will continue to find itself in controversial straits due to Plank’s damnable early support of Trump.
I believe the Under Armour CEO’s efforts to distance himself from the president were anything but a business decision to save his brand from being fully co-opted by the KKK and neo Nazis. A brand which built its appeal and sells its wares off the backs of minority labor, including millions of prep and college athletes, could not afford to be the official logo of hate that is dividing this country and condoned by the highest office in the land—for the first time in our nation’s history.
Leaving Trump wasn’t a morality play for Plank, it was self-preservation. Curry knows better and can do better than to be associated with a man and a company like that.