People Are Setting New Balance Shoes on Fire After Company's Apparent Pro-Trump Comments

New Balance
The Boston-based sportswear company New Balance's VP of public affairs said he feels like things will "move in the right direction" once President-elect Donald Trump takes over from President Obama. Twitter

Less than a day after the 2016 election was called for Donald Trump, New Balance publicly expressed what many have construed as support for the next president of the United States. In a statement issued to The Wall Street Journal, the Boston-based sportswear company's VP of public affairs, Matt LeBretton, said he feels like things will "move in the right direction" once Trump takes over from President Obama.

New Balance: "The Obama admin turned a deaf ear to us & frankly w/ Pres-Elect Trump we feel things are going to move in the right direction"

— Sara Germano (@germanotes) November 9, 2016

New Balance's enthusiasm lies in Trump's opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, which the company has long opposed. When Obama visited competitor Nike in 2015, LeBretton said it "would be great to have him come to a footwear company that actually still makes shoes in the United States." New Balance is one of the only footwear companies manufacturing in the United States, churning out 4 million pairs of shoes annually. The TPP lowers tariffs for companies that manufacture outside of the U.S., putting New Balance at a disadvantage.

In April, LeBretton criticized Obama once again, this time in a Boston Globe piece that accused the Pentagon of backing out of an agreement to outfit troops with New Balance sneakers. "We swallowed the poison pill that is TPP so we could have a chance to bid on these contracts," he said. "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."

New Balance had been making shoes that would allow the government to comply with a 1941 amendment that prevents the Department of Defense from supplying troops with clothing, food and other goods that aren't produced in America.

It's not surprising that LeBretton supports a president-elect who opposes the TPP, but expressing this support publicly a day after the election may not have been a wise move. In the hours after his comments were released, anti-Trump New Balance owners were not shy about expressing how they felt.

You get the idea.

Backlash in full force, New Balance clarified its position to Sole Collector, whose tweet became the home for fire- and garbage-can-themed protest videos. "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," it said. "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."

New Balance also confirmed to BuzzFeed that its comments "were in the context of trade."

There is nothing wrong with New Balance opposing TPP, of course, but given how contentious this election was and how eager half of the country is to express its frustration with the results, LeBretton can't be surprised that a few torches are being taken to his company's products.