WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged people to boycott tires from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., tweeting that the Ohio-based company had “announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS.”
But the company didn't announce such a specific ban, only that it asks employees to refrain from workplace expressions involving political campaigns and “forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues.” “Make America Great Again,” or “MAGA,” is a Trump campaign slogan.
Trump's tweet immediately sent the company’s stock downward. The stock trimmed its losses in the afternoon before closing down about 2.4% for the day.
“Get better tires for far less! (This is what the Radical Left Democrats do. Two can play the same game, and we have to start playing it now!),” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet followed a report from WIBW television station in Topeka, Kansas, based on an anonymous Goodyear employee’s screenshot that listed Black Lives Matter and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride messages as acceptable while politically affiliated slogans and material, including “MAGA Attire” and “Blue Lives Matter,” in support of police, were listed as unacceptable. The screenshot was described in the report as part of the company’s diversity training.
Trump's tweet provided steam for critics on social media who had earlier started #boycottgoodyear on Twitter.
Goodyear responded to Trump with a tweet of its own, saying that the company was the focus of a conversation that “created some misconceptions about our policies and our company. Goodyear has always wholeheartedly supported both equality and law enforcement and will continue to do so.”
The company said the material captured in the screenshot was not created or distributed by the company’s corporate offices or part of a diversity training class. It also stressed that it does ask its workers to “refrain from workplace expressions in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party, as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues.”
It’s not unusual for companies to discourage employees from engaging in political activity at the workplace through their electronic communications and dress code.
Trump's presidential limousine, referred to as “The Beast,” uses Goodyear tires.
“I would swap them out, based on what I heard. We’ll see what happens," Trump said, when asked about Goodyear in a evening press briefing. “Look, you’re going to have a lot of people not wanting to buy that product anymore."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Goodyear should further clarify its policy, and she said support for Blue Lives Matter is an equity issue.
“If you can wear a Black Lives Matter hat, guess what, you should be able to wear a Blue Lives Matter one, too," she said.
Goodyear has a more than 120-year history in Ohio, a battleground state in the presidential election. Most of its competition is headquartered outside the United States.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, tweeted that “It’s absolutely despicable that the President would call for a boycott of an American company, based in Akron, that employs thousands of U.S. workers.”
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, said Trump had promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to Ohio, but instead was jeopardizing them.
“Goodyear employs thousands of American workers, including in Ohio, where it is headquartered. To President Trump, those workers and their jobs aren’t a source of pride, just collateral damage in yet another one of his political attacks," Biden said.
Presidents have at times used the bully pulpit to go after companies, but Trump has taken that opportunity to an elevated level, often with little or no pushback from GOP lawmakers.
In Akron, the latest jobs numbers put the unemployment rate at 11.1%. Trump's comments are sure to grab the attention of Goodyear's workers there.
“They’re using their power over these people, and these people want to wear whatever it is that we’re talking about,” Trump said of Goodyear’s leadership. “And so I would be very much in favor of people who don’t want to buy there. And you know what? They’ll be able to get a good job because we set a jobs record over the last quarter. ...You’ll be able to get another good job.”