Breaking News Emails
New Balance, which proudly boasts "Made in the USA" sneakers, has put its foot in its mouth.
After the company voiced support for Donald Trump and his trade policies, infuriated customers quickly took to social media to call for a boycott of the brand, posting photos and videos of themselves dumping their New Balance shoes in the garbage, throwing them down the toilet, and setting them on fire.
"So sad to hear you endorsed such a hateful person with toxic policies. You just lost some once loyal customers," wrote one commenter.
The sneaker spurn came after Matthew LeBretton, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs, told the Wall Street Journal, “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us and frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.”
Reaction was swift:
"Will throw away my NB sneakers today. Won't buy any new shoes from a company that supports a racist, sexist demagogue that makes fun of disabled people. NB, go and trump yourself," wrote one commenter.
But the privately held, Boston-based sneaker company insists that its spokesman's comments were taken out of context.
While New Balance supports Trump's opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a pact that Obama negotiated with 12 countries that cuts tariffs and fosters trade among the dozen nations — it claimed it wasn't taking a political stance.
“As the only major company that still makes athletic shoes in the U.S., New Balance has a unique perspective on trade in that we want to make more shoes in the U.S., not less [sic],” the company said in a statement to NBC News on Friday. “New Balance publicly supported the trade positions of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump prior to election day that focused on American manufacturing job creation and we continue to support them today.”
LeBretton wasn't available to comment, the company said.
Although Clinton also opposed TPP — which detractors feel could take jobs away from the U.S. and would only serve corporate interests — New Balance's chairman, Jim Davis, is a major GOP donor who attended a Trump fundraiser in Boston in June.
New Balance is not the only company facing backlash for inserting itself into politics. On the other side of the spectrum, Matt Maloney, the CEO of food delivery service Grubhub, created a brouhaha after sending a company-wide email that was interpreted as meaning he wanted Trump-supporting employees to resign.
"I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can," Maloney wrote on Wednesday. "I want to affirm to anyone on our team that is scared or feels personally exposed, that I and everyone else here at Grubhub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better life for yourself and your family. If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here."
Maloney later clarified that his comments were intended to "advocate for inclusion and tolerance — regardless of political affiliation — during this time of transition for our country."
New Balance tweeted Thursday amid the backlash that it welcomed "all walks of life."