New Balance Fends Off Accusations of Being ‘Official Shoes’ of Neo-Nazis

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By Liz Burke | 6:53 am, November 16, 2016

These shoes have a big PR problem.

Lifestyle brand New Balance has been forced to release a defensive statement convincing customers it’s not into “bigotry and hate” after it shoes were declared a “uniform” for Neo-Nazis.

It all started after some diplomatic name-dropping from one of the company’s executives just hours after US President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory.

Referring to concerns around trade partnerships, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs Matthew LeBretton mentioned in an interview with the Wall Street Journal his enthusiasm for an administration that may support more US manufacturing.

“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,” he said.

As the last major athletic company still making shoes in the US, Mr LeBretton was referring to New Balance being affected by the trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement which was led by President Barack Obama and will likely be reconsidered under the Trump administration. It’s an issue the manufacturer has spoken out about in the past.

But Trump supporters, and Neo-Nazis didn’t hear it that way.

Alt-right website the Daily Stormer jumped on the comments and proclaimed New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People”.

Neo-Nazi blogger Andre Anglin wrote on the site the shoes would become his followers’ “uniform”.

“I’m a Nike guy. Or rather, I was,” Mr Anglin wrote.

“It’s time to get on-board with New Balance now. Their brave act has just made them the official brand of the Trump Revolution.

The editor of the website, which promoted anti-Semitic and white supremacist views, went on to declare New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People”.

“This will be fantastic,” he wrote. “We will be able to recognize one another by our sportswear.”

Opponents of Mr Trump and of the white supremacists who support him also jumped on the statement, ignoring its trade-related nuance and boycotting the brand altogether.

New Balance devotees declared their relationship with the brand over, with some going so far as to post pictures and videos of their sneakers being burnt to a crisp, thrown in the bin, or flushed down the toilet online.

The brand moved quickly to try and put out the fire releasing a statement last week saying “we believe in community, we believe in humanity”.

But as the social media storm continues to rage, the company has been forced to up its rhetoric, releasing a second statement overnight distancing itself from “bigotry and hate”, and clarifying its commitment to US manufacturing.

“New Balance does not tolerate bigotry or hate in any former. One of our officials was recently asked to comment on a trade policy that was taken out of context,” the statement posted to New Balance’s Twitter page read.

“As a 110-year-old company with five factories in the US and thousands of employees worldwide from all races, genders, cultures and sexual orientations, New Balance is a values-driven organization and culture that believes in humanity, integrity, community and mutual respect for people around the world.

“We have been and always will be committed to manufacturing in the United States.”

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