By Ayanna Alexander, Contributing Writer
Posted 01:15 AM EST, Wed., March 15, 2017
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank stirred a bit of controversy earlier last month with his comments about President Trump being a “real asset to this country.”
Noticeably silent, was the Howard University Athletics Department, which a few found interesting since Under Armour is a new partner.
About President Trump, Plank said, “To have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset to this country.”
However, two weeks later, Plank released a full-page open letter in the Baltimore Sun, clarifying his comments, and simply backtracking.
The clarification read, “In a business interview last week, I answered a question with a choice of words that did not accurately reflect my [Plank] intent.”
Because President Trump has said disparaging things about Blacks, women, Hispanics, and immigrants, who all make up the Howard community, some felt Howard should have spoken on the situation.
In a random poll of 150 students, 90 of them felt that the athletics department should have addressed it the issue. 15 were indifferent and 45 believed it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Junior and redshirt pitcher of the women’s softball team, Mackenzi Steele was one of the 45.
“I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion and his opinions have no bearing on me,” Steele said. “If he feels that way, then he feels that way. He is very much allowed to voice his opinion and not receive backlash for it.”
Howard alumnus and sports columnist for The Washington Times, Deron Snyder, shared that sentiment.
“I think this Under Armour controversy—to me—sounds like a made up controversy,” he said. “Plank said something controversial, but then he came back and said something else, so I don’t see why that makes it a controversy for the university’s deal with Under Armour.”
As for the 90 students who felt the University and athletics department should have addressed the then situation, they wanted to remain anonymous. However, when asked what made them skeptical of Under Armour after Plank’s comments, 60 percent said it added to Howard’s “transparency issues.”
While Snyder didn’t agree that Plank’s comments were worth a response, he did say that this isn’t the first time Howard’s administration and student body clashed over transparency.
“In terms of overall transparency, I would say this: Even before the 45th president took office, students and administrations have routinely had issues of contention,” said Snyder. “When I was a student, I was involved in a protest when we took over the A [Administration] Building and these things seem to happen somewhat regularly.”
Because of the quick turnaround, many students were not aware of the “controversy.” In fact, out of the students polled, only five were updated on the situation and all five of them said it wasn’t important enough to be addressed.
“I think part of it is that the students’ worldview is not always the same when they get older,” Snyder continued. “For instance, when I was a student, I had one worldview. Now that I’m older, my view has evolved somewhat and I can understand where the administration is coming from.”
“This is not to say that the administration is always right, but back to transparency, I would need to know exactly what the University is hiding in the students’ opinions.”
Hopefully, the 90 students, and those who share their views on Howard’s lack of transparency, will start to see some sort of positive change.
As far as Under Armour is concerned, the brand definitely felt the heat. However, Howard University student-athletes still sport the apparel and appear to be unbothered.
Steele is one of those athletes.
“Like I said before, it is this man’s single opinion,” she said. “He is the CEO of Under Armour, but he is still a human being, and an American, who has every right to say how he feels. So, I love Under Armour and their products.”
When asked for a response in regards to the comments from Under Armour’s CEO, the Howard University Athletics Department could not be reached for comment.