Kevin Plank Leaves President Trump’s Manufacturing Advisory Council

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Baltimore’s most prominent businessman has severed ties with the Trump administration.

Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, announced yesterday that he’s resigned from his seat on Donald Trump’s manufacturing advisory council. He didn’t give a clear reason. However, the announcement followed the president’s controversial response to Saturday’s deadly, ugly violence between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump initially said “many sides” were responsible, rather than blaming the torch-wielding neo-Nazis who initiated the racially charged unrest. Yesterday afternoon, he changed his tune by condemning the white supremacists in prepared remarks.

“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,” Plank said in a statement. “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.”

Plank met with Trump at the White House back in January, and the 28-member advisory council convened the following month. Trump billed the group as a brainstorming committee of sorts to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States and better protect American business interests. He promised incentives to members who refrained from outsourcing jobs to other countries for cheap labor, among other protective business moves.

Plank subsequently voiced his support for the president in public, calling Trump “a real asset” for the country during an appearance on CNBC.

That didn’t go over well. Several of his brand’s most prominent athletes – including Steph Curry, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Misty Copeland – spoke out, saying Plank’s feelings didn’t reflect their own. Customers boycotted. Plank later opted to apologize and defend his company’s commitment to diversity, and immigrants in particular.

Plank wasn’t exactly a trailblazer in leaving Trump’s council. Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck Pharmaceuticals, was the first of three business titans to leave the advisory body yesterday. He was also the only black member of the council.

In a statement, Frazier alluded to Trump’s initial, softer remarks about the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville: “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

Trump responded in his typically professional, respectful manner via Twitter:

Plank’s resignation followed, and later on Monday night, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also resigned. In a statement, Krzanich said he chose to leave the council “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing.”

Others charted the path out of the White House for Frazier, Plank and Krzanich. Tesla CEO Elon Musk left the council in June after Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, and Travis Kalanick, formerly CEO of Uber, left almost right away in February, when his customers boycotted after Trump launched his campaign to ramp up deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Others have left as they’ve retired and haven’t appointed replacements, Business Insider reports. The president of the AFL-CIO, the largest national federation of labor unions, is also reportedly considering leaving, citing Trump’s statements about Charlottesville and concerns about the council’s effectiveness.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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