Kevin Plank is Trumpier than we knew

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Tri­cia Bishop all Tri­cia Bishop is The Sun's deputy ed­i­to­rial page edi­tor. Her col­umn runs ev­ery other Fri­day. Her email is tri­cia.bishop@balt­sun.com; Twit­ter: @tri­cia­bishop.

Turns out Un­der Ar­mour CEO Kevin Plank is Trumpier than we thought. Last year, he came un­der fire for prais­ing the pres­i­dent’s busi­ness stance, and this year, we find out he’s also a fan of strip­pers (shout-out to Stormy!).

Mr. Plank and other ex­ec­u­tives at­tended strip clubs af­ter var­i­ous events with ath­letes and col­leagues over a span of years, ac­cord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal, which pub­lished an ar­ti­cle ear­lier this week claim­ing that Un­der Ar­mour em­ploy­ees were no­ti­fied via email in Fe­bru­ary that they were no longer al­lowed to ex­pense such adult en­ter­tain­ment. (Note to other busi­nesses still op­er­at­ing in the stone ages: Don’t leave a text trail when you kill bad poli­cies if you don’t want them to end up in the press.)

But even more trou­bling: Mr. Plank’s com­pany man­agers also used young fe­male em­ploy­ees as bait for ex­ec­u­tives at pre-Preak­ness par­ties held at Mr. Plank’s horse farm, The Jour­nal said, invit­ing women “based on their at­trac­tive­ness to ap­peal to male guests” in a prac­tice charm­ingly re­ferred to as “stock­ing the pond.” Wel­come to 2018, folks. #MeToo who? An­a­lysts ex­pect this news, like 2017’s pro-Trump pro­nounce­ment, to hurt the com­pany’s brand long term, and Mr. Plank has pledged to “em­brace this mo­ment to ac­cel­er­ate the on­go­ing mean­ing­ful cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion that is al­ready un­der­way at Un­der Ar­mour.”

Ap­par­ently this man needs to learn his lessons the hard way.

You’d think the in­ci­dent in 2012, when The Jour­nal says Mr. Plank’s brother Scott left the com­pany un­der a cloud of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions, would have been a wake-up call to sen­si­tiv­ity.

And where ex­actly lap dancers fit in with Un­der Ar­mour’s plans to re­make it­self from a men’s brand into a fam­ily brand, with women’s lines tar­geted as par­tic­u­lar ar­eas for growth, is un­clear. Ex­ec­u­tives pre­sum­ably weren’t en­ter­tain­ing of the com­pany’s ath­lete part­ners at Bal­ti­more’s Scores, which sits in the shad­ows of a jail and home­less ser­vices cen­ter and is soon to be known as the “Pent­house Club.” I have a hard time en­vi­sion­ing, say, prin­ci­pal bal­le­rina Misty Copeland (who ex­pressed con­cern fol­low­ing Mr. Plank’s Trump re­marks, as did many oth­ers, in­clud­ing con­sumers), or Olympic skier Lind­sey Vonn, grab­bing a bite at at the Dog House be­fore en­joy­ing a strip­tease.

Of course it could be ar­gued that the strip­pers are a kind of ath­lete; that pole doesn’t work it­self, af­ter all. But they don’t have much need for ath­letic wear, un­less maybe the com­pany plans to branch into thongs.

And while I’ll con­cede that it’s not ex­actly shock­ing for ath­letes to fre­quent nudie bars, in this day and age a smart busi­ness per­son should know bet­ter than to join in. It sends a clear mes­sage to fe­male em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers that it’s A-OK to ob­jec­tify women — whether on the clock or not.

Un­der Ar­mour spokes­woman Kelley McCormick told The Jour­nal that Mr. Plank him­self didn’t con­duct busi­ness at strip clubs or use com­pany funds at them, which sug­gests he just went along for fun. Ms. McCormick also said last year’s Preak­ness eve party had a “taste­ful na­ture,” de­spite the women in cut­offs danc­ing on bars. Uh huh.

(It’s so much more con­vinc­ing when women jus­tify be­hav­ior de­mean­ing to women, isn’t it? I’m look­ing at you Sarah and Kellyanne.)

Per­haps if there were greater fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion on Un­der Ar­mour’s ex­ec­u­tive team, these kinds of prac­tices might have been nipped in the bud years ago. But the only woman in the so-called C suite — hu­man re­sources chief (of course) Kerry Chan­dler — an­nounced plans to leave last month, ac­cord­ing to The Jour­nal. And to­day, of the eight ex­ec­u­tives listed on its busi­ness site, not one is a woman (nor a per­son of color, for that mat­ter).

It all re­minds me of an op-ed we ran last year, de­tail­ing a woman’s very un­com­fort­able el­e­va­tor ride with some drunken men who ap­peared to be Un­der Ar­mour em­ploy­ees and ques­tion­ing the cul­ture at the com­pany. An­other Un­der Ar­mour spokes­woman called the pa­per, in­cred­i­bly hot un­der the col­lar, de­mand­ing proof and call­ing us ir­re­spon­si­ble for run­ning such claims. Mean­while, her bosses were ap­par­ently stock­ing the pond and so­cial­iz­ing at Scores.

Per­haps a bet­ter way to con­tain bad press is to cease the be­hav­ior that spurs it.

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