New Balance Clarifies Comments Supporting Trump
Before this month, New Balance was lucky if it generated a few hundred reactions to posts on its Facebook page. Now, the sneaker company’s page is flooded with impassioned commentary, and it has found itself compelled to make a statement distancing itself from white supremacists.
It started when Matt LeBretton, the company’s vice-president for communications, told The Wall Street Journal last week that “we feel things are going to move in the right direction” under Donald Trump. LeBretton’s comments were made in the context of Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that New Balance says will hurt its production of shoes in the United States while rewarding competitors that make more of their products overseas.
Some consumers, however, saw that comment as a full-throated endorsement of Trump and reacted immediately, circulating images that showed New Balance shoes being burned or thrown in the trash.
That led the brand to clarify its position through a statement in which it noted that it “publicly supported the trade positions of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump prior to Election Day that focused on American manufacturing job creation.” It also posted a statement to Facebook saying, “From the people who make our shoes to the people who wear them, we believe in acting with the utmost integrity and we welcome all walks of life.”
But that was only the start. Over the weekend, the Daily Stormer, a website rife with anti-Semitic, anti-gay hate speech and white supremacist language, derided the complaints and championed New Balance as “the official shoes of white people,” encouraging readers to buy them. (In a blog post last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center, described the Daily Stormer as “the newest up and comer in the heated competition to rule the hate web.”)
The ensuing support from white supremacists and other members of what is known as the alt-right led New Balance to distance itself from such commentary and address the nature of its remark about Trump. New Balance, based in Boston, wrote on its Twitter and Facebook pages on Monday night that it “does not tolerate bigotry or hate in any form” and that a recent comment about trade policy “was taken out of context.”
It added, “As a 110-year-old company with five factories in the U.S. and thousands of employees worldwide from all races, genders, cultures and sexual orientations, New Balance is a values-driven organization and culture that believes in humanity, integrity, community and mutual respect for people around the world.”
On Facebook, the post has attracted more than 5,000 reactions and hundreds of comments, some lauding the company and others from supporters and detractors of Trump criticizing its response. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
The Daily Stormer responded with a claim that New Balance’s denouncement was “a hoax,” in a post on Tuesday that turned into an anti-Semitic rant.