Shortly after Donald Trump won the election, the vice president of public affairs for the New Balance shoe brand shared his support of the new president-elect.
Wall Street Journal reporter Sara Germano tweeted that Matt LeBretton said he thinks things will “move in the right direction” once Trump takes office.
LeBretton’s sentiment is based on President-elect Trump’s opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Last year, President Barack Obama visited New Balance competitor Nike to tout the benefits of the TPP, which lowers tariffs for companies that make products outside of the United States. At the time, LeBretton said it “would be great to have [Obama] come to a footwear company that actually still makes shoes in the United States.”
New Balance — which is owned by a major Republican donor — does make shoes overseas, but domestic manufacturing is a priority for the company, which boasts five New England factories. The company was reportedly slated to make shoes for U.S. troops, but the Pentagon delayed the deal, according to LeBretton.
“We were assured this would be a top-down approach at the Department of Defense if we agreed to either support or remain neutral on TPP. [But] the chances of the Department of Defense buying shoes that are made in the U.S.A. are slim to none while Obama is president,” LeBretton told The Boston Globe in April.
Not long after LeBretton’s post-election comment went public, New Balance customers began trashing or setting fire to their sneakers and posting photos on Twitter.
New Balance issued a statement to Sole Collector to explain its position.
As the only major company that still makes athletic shoes in the United States, New Balance has a unique perspective on trade and trade policy in that we want to make more shoes in the United States, not less. New Balance publicly supported the trade positions of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump prior to Election Day that focused on American manufacturing job creation and we continue to support them today.
The company also tweeted a message of community and humanity, though Trump and TPP were not mentioned.
LeBretton told BuzzFeed that his comments were only related to trade only.
The statement [quoted by Sarah Germano] is correct in the context of trade, not talking about large geo-political anything, but in the context of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.
It’s inaccurate. Everything I’ve said is in the context of trade.