Trump, trainers and tribulations

15Nov16

There have been many times over the past 18 months when I’ve been tempted to write about a certain Mr. Donald J. Trump.

I’ve managed to resist, partly because I didn’t believe there was a realistic chance that he could triumph (*embarrassed face emoji*), and partly because I didn’t feel there was anything original I could say.

And then people started burning their trainers.

nb

American sportswear manufacturer New Balance has been on the receiving end of widespread condemnation from consumers following a comment from one of its vice presidents that appeared to welcome Trump’s stunning election success:

“The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us and frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.”
– Matthew LeBretton, vice president of public affairs at New Balance.

The perceived endorsement provoked outrage among those upset by Trump’s accession to the oval office, with many swearing to never wear New Balance again, and some going as far as to set their trainers alight:

Seeing New Balance’s name dragged through the social media mangle hasn’t been easy for this bleeding heart liberal. Not only am I rarely seen without a pair of the brand’s shoes on my feet, but (full disclosure) I once worked for its PR agency in the UK and Ireland.

My view of the company, having worked closely alongside it for almost three years, could not be more positive. It’s a firm that cherishes craftsmanship, values its heritage and, importantly, has decency and fairness running through its core.

The notion that it’s an organisation that supports any form of bigotry is entirely at odds with my experience. But then, that’s not surprising given the magnitude of the leap it would take to come to that conclusion based purely on LeBretton’s comment.

And yet, if you search the #NeverNewBalance hashtag on Twitter, scores of people are doing just that. It’s bewildering. 

To give LeBretton’s  point some context, New Balance is one of the very few remaining sportswear companies that still hangs its hat on domestic manufacturing. Here in the UK, it’s the only major athletic footwear brand to produce shoes in a British factory. In the US, it operates five manufacturing facilities.

While many brands have taken their production lines overseas in order to cut costs, it has maintained this commitment to domestic product and the preservation of jobs. This laudable philosophy is the reason why the brand is more vocal about American trade regulation than many of its competitors.

Essentially, the very thing that makes New Balance a company worthy of praise is now the catalyst behind the scorn being poured upon it.

The controversy revolves around the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP as it’s widely known. While I’m far from an expert when it comes to understanding the finer points of the agreement, I understand it’s a trade partnership between nine countries, championed by the Obama administration, which reduces import fees on products sourced from participating countries.

To put it into this specific context, TPP ultimately gives importers (such as Nike) a competitive edge on domestic manufacturers (such as New Balance) by further reducing their overheads. Therefore it’s loathed by many ‘Made in the USA’ firms, not to mention their employees.

Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to abandon TPP, and New Balance’s decision to welcome this fact now has them wrongly labelled as wholeheartedly endorsing the President-elect, even on issues that aren’t directly linked to trade.

Here’s the kicker, though: Hillary Clinton was also against TPP. Guess who else? Only the darling of the left himself, Bernie Sanders. I assume they’re also good-for-nothing bigots for agreeing with Trump?!

It only serves to underline the astounding lack of logic that’s driven the anti-New Balance movement that has formed over the last week.

It’s akin to finding out Trump once ate at McDonalds, then accusing your mates of being racist and sexist when you find out they like Big Macs too.

It’s also symptomatic of the main problem with modern leftism, in that we don’t bother to debate any more, or to properly articulate our views. We just angrily condemn those who disagree with us, often without bothering to discover the thought process behind their opinion. I’m guilty of it myself.

  • When people voice concerns about immigration, we label them racist.
  • When people support Brexit, or Donald Trump, we accuse them of being stupid.
  • When people, often reluctantly, vote for the option that they believe will better enable them to feed their families, we accuse them of being selfish and narrow-minded.
  • And now, apparently, when a company opposes a trade agreement, we post photographs of ourselves burning its products on Twitter.

But we never bother to find out what brought them to that view, or to discover the context behind it. It’s something that was articulated quite brilliantly in Jonathan Pie’s piece last week. And, for that matter, by Michael Moore before the US election.

How on earth do we expect people to come around to our world view when we’re seen as sneering and dismissive rather than approachable and persuasive? The likes of Trump and Farage have seized upon the resentment that has been bred by this attitude. Yet still, on we go.

How, exactly, do you believe that burning a pair of trainers contributes to a better, fairer world? Why not do something meaningful?

Volunteer. Join a political party. Campaign. At the very least, actually do some research before lurching into immediate condemnation or individuals, organisations or groups. Just do something.

And if you really don’t need those shoes, there’s plenty of people who do. Give them to charity, FFS. It might not get as many Facebook likes as a pair of sizzling sneakers, but you’ll be doing something good whilst not looking quite so daft.

What a bloody mess. Grow up, the lot of you.

You know you should. You really should.



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