Under Armour’s Star Endorsers Are Coming Out Against the CEO’s Pro-Trump Statements

Misty Copeland, Stephen Curry and The Rock raise objections

Under Armour ad star Misty Copeland posted a lengthy response to the brand's CEO on Instagram.
Headshot of Katie Richards

Some of Under Armour’s biggest celebrity endorsers—ballet dancer Misty Copeland, NBA star Stephen Curry and Hollywood icon Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—are speaking out against the apparel brand’s CEO for referring to Donald Trump as “a real asset” to American businesses.

In an interview earlier this week with CNBC, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank shared several positive thoughts about Trump as a leader and supporter of corporations:

“He’s highly passionate. To have such a pro-business president is something that’s a real asset to this country,” Plank said on Halftime Report. “I think people should really grab that opportunity. … He wants to build things. He wants to make bold decisions, and he wants to be decisive. I’m a big fan of people who operate in the world of ‘publish and iterate’ versus ‘think, think, think, think.’ so there’s a lot that I respect there.”

"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."
Misty Copeland

His comments led to a flurry of criticisms on Twitter and have now percolated to some of the brand’s top star athletes and performers.

Misty Copeland, star of the brand’s iconic “I Will What I Want” ad, uploaded a lengthy post to Instagram today. While she praises the brand for supporting her over the years, Copeland did not mince words about Trump.

“I strongly disagree with Kevin Plank’s recent comments in support of Trump as recently reported,” she wrote in the Instagram post. “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.”

She said she has spoken with Plank privately about his opinions in great detail but that, “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.”

Here’s her full post:

With more than 10 million views, Copeland’s Under Armour ad from 2014 was a huge hit for the brand and resonated across the industry as an example of how marketing could celebrate strong women. Since the ad debuted, Copeland developed her own Under Armour clothing line, appeared on the cover of Time magazine and was named by the American Ballet Theater as its first African-American principal dancer.

She hasn’t been alone in criticizing the brand’s founder and top executive.

Another major endorser for the brand, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, also spoke out against Plank, although less directly than Copeland. When asked by The Mercury News about Plank’s description of Trump as “a real asset,” Curry responded by saying, “I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et’ from asset.”

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson also posted his response to Plank on Instagram. “These are neither my words, nor my beliefs,” Johnson writes. “His words were divisive and lacking in perspective. Inadvertently creating a situation where the personal political opinions of UA’s partners and its employees were overshadowed by the comments of its CEO.”

Here’s Johnson’s full post:

I appreciate and welcome the feedback from people who disagree (and agree) with Kevin Plank's words on CNBC, but these are neither my words, nor my beliefs. His words were divisive and lacking in perspective. Inadvertently creating a situation where the personal political opinions of UA’s partners and its employees were overshadowed by the comments of its CEO. A good company is not solely defined by its CEO. A good company is not defined by the athlete or celebrity who partners with them. A good company is not a single person. A good company is a team, a group of brothers and sisters committed to working together each and every day to provide for their families and one another and the clients they serve. We don’t partner with a brand casually. I partner with brands I trust and with people who share my same values. That means a commitment to diversity, inclusion, community, open-mindedness and some serious hard work. But it doesn't mean that I or my team will always agree with the opinion of everyone who works there, including its executives. Great leaders inspire and galvanize the masses during turbulent times, they don't cause people to divide and disband. My responsibility here is not only to the global audience we serve, but also to the thousands of workers who pour blood, sweat, and tears into making Under Armour strong. A diverse group of hardworking men and women who possess integrity, respect and compassion for one another and the world they live in. Debate is healthy. But in a time of widespread disagreement, so is loyalty. I feel an obligation to stand with this diverse team, the American and global workers, who are the beating heart and soul of Under Armour and the reason I chose to partner with them. My commitment is as real as my sweat and callouses that thicken daily. #CommittedToThePeople

A photo posted by therock (@therock) on

The former wrestler turned Hollywood star partnered with Under Armour, agency Droga5 and William Morris Endeavor to launch Project Rock in early 2016. The celebrity created a line of products with Under Armour, including a Rock-themed alarm clock and a backpack.

Droga5, Under Armour’s primary agency partner and creator of the ads featuring Copeland and Curry, didn’t shy away from politics during the 2016 election, when the agency created ads for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Adweek has reached out to Olympian and Under Armour ad star Michael Phelps.

Droga5 founder David Droga told Adweek in a statement: “There are few greater champions of inclusion, community and diversity than Kevin. Supporting more US manufacturing does not mean he supports other harmful and divisive policies…His track record of helping rebuild Baltimore, his drive for local manufacturing (the lighthouse) his generosity to those in need, and his overall humanity. He is an action orientated, innovative businessman. That should be applauded. He is also very pro-business. Being optimistic is a valuable trait we all need more of right now…I can say first hand Under Armour is a values-based, people company and this hasn’t deviated for any administration. Under Armour is not about the left or the right. It’s about moving forward together. Misty and Stephen are more than just two of the world’s most inspiring athletes. They are role models and I think it’s natural for them to respond to the media’s narrative. But they also know Kevin personally and by all accounts they have spoken with Kevin and been reassured that Under Armour’s values haven’t suddenly changed. The entire episode is a shock and unfortunate but we remain proud partners. Under Armour is without question one of this countries most admired companies and Kevin a poster child of an American success story. Hardworking, inspiring and exceedingly philanthropic. The hysteria needs to die down and we need to get back to facts and constructive dialogue again. If we turn on our best, where do we go from there?”

Here’s a look back at the ad that helped make Copeland a household name:

@ktjrichards katie.richards@adweek.com Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.