Columbia Sportswear Co. CEO Tim Boyle joined the national conversation regarding President Donald Trump’s comments about four minority Congresswomen.
In a July 19 email sent to all employees and viewed by FN, Boyle called the president’s words “offensive,” adding that “it is important to be open and welcoming toward individuals with diverse backgrounds.”
The president’s controversial statements came on July 14, when he tweeted that four Democratic Congresswomen — Rashida Tlaib, llhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley — should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
“Then come back and show us how it is done,” Trump continued. “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Discussion of Trump’s tweets dominated the national news cycle last week. On Tuesday night, the House of Representatives voted to condemn the president, 240-187, marking the first time in the past 100 years that a sitting president was rebuked by the body.
In addition to admonishing the tweets, Boyle spoke out against the U.S. government’s recent refusal to grant a Columbia Sportswear business partner a visa — calling the decision “frustrating and unjustified.”
“The government knew the person was our business partner, that we fully supported the visit and depended on it to grow our business. But the fear that someone might be an ‘immigrant’ prevented a short trip to our sales meeting,” he wrote. “Diversity is one of the great strengths of our global business, and it is important to be open and welcoming toward individuals with diverse backgrounds, including our colleagues and community members who are already here in the United States, as well as those who are a part of our global team.”
Boyle’s comments follow a recent trend of companies taking a stand on social issues. For instance, Patagonia sued the president over his reduction of national monuments, while The North Face trolled Trump over his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. Toms, Gucci and Dick’s Sporting Goods, meanwhile, have been among the many brands to speak out against gun violence.
According to a 2018 study by Global Strategy Group, 77% of Americans believe that corporations have a responsibility to take action on important issues — and companies can pay a price for inaction. Comments like Boyle’s are essential for brands to keep their customers, even if they might be controversial.
For Boyle, the matter was also a personal one.
“Columbia exists in Oregon because Gert [Boyle] was able to escape Nazi Germany in 1937,” Boyle’s letter read. “We understand, from personal experience, what it means when government leaders demonize any group as being inferior, unworthy and fundamentally unwelcome to be a part of a country.”
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