In the latest instance of faux outrage, international sneaker company Reebok criticized President Trump earlier this week for his compliment to France's first lady Brigitte Macron when he remarked, "You're in terrific shape" during his recent visit to Paris.
Although the president made the remark in a cordial tone and in the presence of his own wife, the people at Reebok were so appalled that they tweeted a flow chart, claiming that it is never permissible for a sitting president to compliment a female on her shape — ever.
Yet the midst of their anti-Trump hysteria, the pious promoters at Reebok failed to mention one thing: their company's own sexist debacle.
In the late 1990s, Reebok released a line of shoes named for the Medieval demon Incubus, who was known for sexually assaulting women in their sleep. Reebok's product launch was so disastrous that the New York Times suggested the shoe company had "tripped over its laces." Newspapers from St. Louis to Los Angeles similarly piled on, saying the company was having a "devil of a time."
Realizing that Reebok had some explaining to do, a top executive admitted that the product development team hadn't fully researched the name and was unaware that the name carried the sexual assault stigma. In fact, he said that the company had only conducted a cursory check to see if the name had been trademarked. (It hadn't.)
But it got worse.
Reebok executives reportedly attempted to cover up their lack of judgment by asking retailers to simply scribble out the name "Incubus" on all of their shoeboxes; after all, the shoes themselves didn't have the depraved name stamped on them. However, consumers had already caught on to the PR disaster, and the news media said Reebok had "failed spectacularly."
In the end, the sneaker company acquiesced; Snopes.com reported that the company ultimately recalled more than 18,000 pairs of the shoes.
Given their history, it's surprising that Reebok would weigh in on alleged sexism given their past stumble out of the blocks.
By stooping to critique Trump, they not only forgot their own history, they miss the point that their own customer base consists of conservatives who just want to run and play and enjoy a pair of shoes. Just ask retailers who announced last spring that they would drop Ivanka Trump's shoe line, only to have her brand experience an impressive spike in sales. It had the reverse effect.
Some public relations advice for Reebok: Those who display products in glass storefront windows ought to refrain from throwing stones.
Jennifer Kerns (@JenKernsUSA) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. A GOP communications strategist, she served as spokeswoman for the California Republican Party, recalls in Colorado, and California's Prop. 8. Previously, she served as a writer for the 2016 U.S. presidential debates for FOX News.
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