President Donald Trump and his opponents have used brands as an ideological battleground, urging their supporters to boycott major players in retail since even before the 2016 election.
Shots have been fired by both sides: Trump’s detractors have gone after companies for their executives’ affiliations or statements in support of the president, while Trump himself has targeted companies including Macy’s, Apple and Nike — the latter while in office.
On Tuesday, however, the president lashed out at “the radical left” for their calls to boycott Home Depot, whose retired co-founder Bernie Marcus recently told “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” that he plans to donate some of his multi
billion-dollar fortune to Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. Marcus was also one of the president’s top donors in 2016, giving $7 million to the campaign. While he said he doesn’t agree with all of Trump’s decisions, he told the paper that, “If we look at this country, I would say that we are better off today than we were eight years ago or six years ago.”
Not long after the interview was published, some opponents began using the #BoycottHomeDepot hashtag on Twitter to voice their disapproval. By Tuesday, the hashtag was trending, and Trump responded with a three-part tweet, saying, “More and more the Radical Left is using Commerce to hurt their ‘Enemy.’ They put out the name of a store, brand or company, and ask their so-called followers not to do business there.”
“They don’t care who gets hurt, but also don’t understand that two can play that game!” he continued, calling for his allies to “Fight for Bernie Marcus and Home Depot!”
Not everyone on the other side is jumping to condemn the home improvement retailer, however. On GrabYourWallet.org, which has been tracking companies that profit off Trump administration affiliations or policies since 2016, a note explains why the organization is not calling for a Home Depot boycott: “We feel certain that the current leadership of Home Depot hates it when Marcus is given the spotlight by the press, because it constantly makes people think he’s still involved with the company. He’s not. All Trump Home products on the Home Depot site were marked ‘discontinued’ in the early days of the Grab Your Wallet boycott and are now simply gone.”
The site has likewise moved several retailers that once carried Ivanka Trump’s now-defunct footwear and accessories line to its “safe” list since 2016, including DSW, Nordstrom, Shoes.com and Neiman Marcus, all of which confirmed that they would no longer carry the collection for reasons that include poor sales. (Others, like Lord & Taylor, Macy’s and TJ Maxx, were moved to the “safe” list by default once Ivanka Trump announced that she was shutting down her label in July 2018.)
Under Armour, too, has been given the “OK” by the #GrabYourWallet campaign after CEO Kevin Plank said he would step down from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council and condemned the administration’s travel ban. The athletic brand had come under fire from consumers and its own spokespeople (including Stephen Curry, The Rock and Misty Copeland) when Plank called the president “a real asset for the country” in a February 2017 interview with CNBC.
Nike, meanwhile, has been enjoying booming sales and a stock market rally in the wake of its controversial decision to cast former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign last fall. The president — who has repeatedly denounced Kaepernick for his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest discrimination and police brutality — responded to the ad on Twitter, saying “Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.”
While some conservative shoppers posted videos of themselves burning their Nike shoes on Twitter, the brand seemed unfazed. “For Nike, their most fervent fans would find Colin Kaepernick an apt representative for their brand,” Jerry Davis, associate dean at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, told FN in an interview earlier this year. “The kinds of people who did not appreciate Kaepernick are not the ones likely to spend $200 on some new kicks. My sense is that the better-defined the target market for the product, the easier it is to figure out which stands to take without alienating customers.”
The sportswear giant’s stock took an initial hit after the campaign’s release, but it has recovered in the months since then. It got another boost last week in the wake of the brand’s decision to pull its Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July sneaker following reported suggestions from Kaepernick and others that the “Betsy Ross” flag design could be seen to celebrate the period of slavery in American history.
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