Why Are People Burning Their New Balance Shoes?
Some people have taken to burning their shoes; specifically, New Balance Athletics, Inc. shoes. New Balance, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States, has suffered a dent to its reputation. The famous athletic shoemaker is guilty of having endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential bid.
In so doing, Boston-based New Balance has attracted the ire of some of its customers. Owners of the famous brand shoes burned, defenestrated (threw out of windows), and trashed any New Balance items they had bought. In some cases, they even expressed pride at discarding rare collector editions.
The problem began when a white supremacist web site named New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People.” The odd qualification derived from a New Balance executive’s comment, which was taken out of context. Matt LeBretton, VP of Public Affairs, had praised Trump for his stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). LeBretton simply said Trump’s election was a step in the “right direction.” New Balance stressed it “does not tolerate bigotry or hate in any form.” (Source: “New Balance faces backlash after exec praises Donald Trump,” CBC, November 17, 2016.)
New Balance’s executive was targeting President Obama’s trade policy; more specifically, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Under the terms of the TPPA, signatories would lower customs duties imposed on some Asian countries with a prominent textile industry. These include Malaysia and Vietnam.
That’s the spirit of the New Balance executive’s statement. The lower tariffs on imported clothing and shoes would make it tougher for the company to compete. New Balance still maintains a sizeable portion of its manufacturing in the United States.
Still, as many have discovered, the social network machine can distort facts and is often unforgiving. The out-of-context statement from New Balance has stirred one of the biggest PR disasters for the company. It’s especially ironic, since Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential nominee hopeful who captured youths’ hearts, also challenged the TPPA.
Hopefully, New Balance will be able to challenge the misappropriation, or risk losing major market share, with or without the TPPA, in a highly competitive sector.