US president-elect Donald Trump wants you to support L.L. Bean, the Maine-based maker of odd-looking but perennially popular duck boots seen on feet across the northeastern US and beyond on rainy or snowy days. “Buy L.L. Bean,” he urged in a tweet this morning.
Leaving aside the question of whether a president should ever endorse a particular company or product, the support isn’t likely to be welcomed by L.L. Bean, which has been trying to distance itself from any association with Trump in recent days.
The company found itself tangled up in US politics after the AP reported last week that Linda Bean, heiress to L.L. Bean and a member of the company’s 10-person board of directors, was in trouble with the US Federal Election Commission for making contributions to a pro-Trump political action committee in excess of the FEC’s limit. A person can give up to $5,000 (pdf) per year to a PAC, but according to a letter obtained by the AP, federal campaign finance reports showed Bean contributed $60,000 to Making America Great Again LLC. The group as a whole spent $66,862.
In response to the news, #GrabYourWallet, an ongoing organized boycott of Trump products and the retailers who carry them, added L.L. Bean to its list, much to the company’s frustration. Linda Bean has called the boycott “un-American.”
L.L. Bean’s executive chairman, Shawn Gorman, issued a statement on Facebook on Jan. 9 making it clear that the company wants nothing to do with politics, and that Linda Bean’s actions don’t represent the rest of the company’s nine other board members or its more than 50 family owners. “We are deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L.Bean as a supporter of any political agenda,” the statement said. “L.L.Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics.”
But the president-elect dragged L.L. Bean further into the spotlight this morning, tweeting:
The tweet elicited strong reactions for and against the company on Twitter.
We’ve reached out to the company for any additional comment following president-elect Trump’s tweet today.
The episode recalls one that US sneaker maker New Balance recently experienced when white supremacists read a statement by the company in support of Trump’s stance on a specific trade policy as a broader endorsement. One blog dubbed New Balance the “official shoes of white people,” forcing New Balance into a defensive position as it became embroiled in a debate it hadn’t meant to get involved in.
Footwear and apparel brands may want to stay away from politics, but politics isn’t staying away from them.