BALTIMORE, United States — Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank resigned from the American Manufacturing Council, one of several executive panels assembled in January by President Donald Trump to discuss job growth, on Monday evening after a weekend of violence in Charlottesville and controversy at the White House. His resignation came on the same day as that of Kenneth Frazier, chief executive of pharmaceutical company Merck & Co, who said in a statement that “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group.
In his statement released on Twitter, Plank said: “I joined the American Manufacturing Council because I believed it was important for Under Armour to have an active seat at the table and represent our industry. We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American Manufacturing. However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”
“I am appreciative of the opportunity to have served, but have decided to step down from the council," he continued. "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.”
The move was perhaps unexpected, given that Plank has been criticised in the past for his perceived support of Trump. “To have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country,” he said during a February 2017 CNBC television appearance. Several of Under Armour's high-profile ambassadors, including Misty Copeland and Steph Curry, spoke out against the comments. Plank has since publicly disagreed with President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
Earlier on Monday, Plank wrote on Twitter: “We are saddened by #Charlottesville. There is no place for racism or discrimination in this world. We choose love & unity.” However, a representative for Under Armour said his decision to leave the council was “completely unrelated to the events of this weekend.”
President Trump was fiercely criticised over the weekend for failing to publicly denounce the neo-Nazis and Klu Klux Klan sympathisers who led violent demonstrations in Charlottesville that left one anti-protestor dead. Trump did condemn racists on Monday, but not until after attacking Frazier on Twitter for leaving the council.
The President’s actions have forced executives to resign from his councils in the past: Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and Disney’s Robert Iger left their respective presidential advisory councils in June after the President announced plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. And former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick resigned from the economic advisory council in February following the White House’s controversial Muslim travel ban.
While several of the remaining chief executives on the manufacturing council have denounced racism following Frazier and Plank’s resignations, leaders from General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Johnson & Johnson and the rest remain. That may soon change, however: For the President's private sector advisors, public statements may not be enough for consumers as tensions rise in Trump's America.