AKRON — Goodyear’s chief executive says the company does not endorse any political organization, party, or candidate and that it has clarified a policy to make clear employees can wear apparel showing support for law enforcement.
Rich Kramer, Goodyear’s CEO and chairman, sent a one-page letter to customers Thursday in the aftermath of President Donald Trump on Wednesday calling for a boycott of Goodyear tires for not allowing employees to wear MAGA attire or show support for Blue Lives Matter, a movement supporting police officers. The letter was also posted via social media and is on the company’s corporate website.
Kramer’s letter did not address Trump asking people not to buy Goodyear tires.
Kramer said a presentation slide shown at the company’s Topeka, Kansas, tire factory that triggered a national debate on political speech was created there, not at the company’s corporate headquarters in Akron. The training slide said that Black Lives Matter and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride was acceptable but that Blues Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, MAGA attire and politically affiliated slogans and material were unacceptable. The slide was photographed and then sent to a Topeka television station, which did a story that spread nationally.
“The slide in question was created by a plant employee to try to explain what is acceptable to wear in the workplace,” Kramer wrote. “The slide was not approved or distributed by Goodyear Corporate or anyone outside of that facility. I deeply regret the impression it has created and want to clarify Goodyear’s position.”
Kramer said he wrote the letter to “personally clear the record on what you are seeing and hearing.”
“First, to be clear, Goodyear does not endorse any political organization, party or candidate. We have a longstanding corporate policy that asks associates to refrain from workplace expressions in support of any candidate or political party,” he wrote.
“Second, Goodyear strongly supports our law enforcement partners and deeply appreciates all they do to put their lives on the line each and every day for our communities. … We have clarified our policy to make it clear associates can express support for law enforcement through apparel at Goodyear facilities.”
Kramer said Goodyear has “proudly supplied tires to police and fire personnel for more than 100 years and that relationship is foundational to our company.”
Kramer said the core of the company is its people and culture.
“Goodyear has always supported both law enforcement and equal justice. We will always do so,” he said. “I want to thank each and every one of our customers for your partnership during these unprecedented times.”
Trump’s call for a Goodyear boycott not surprisingly was roundly criticized by Democrats and union leaders, calling the president in part “anti-job.” Trump’s rival in the upcoming November election, Joe Biden, was among the prominent Democrats going after Trump. Akron-area residents on social media largely defended Goodyear from Trump’s call for a boycott.
In a press conference Wednesday, Trump said he also is willing to swap out the Goodyear tires on the presidential limousine for another brand.
In a separate briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Goodyear needed to clarify its policy.
“What happened is there was an image that was put out that showed that certain speech was acceptable — Black Lives Matter insignia, for instance — but what was not allowed was Blue Lives Matter; what was not allowed was MAGA hats,” she said. ”As far as I’m concerned, Blue Lives Matter is an equity issue. There have been police officers across this country that have been targeted because they wear the badge. Look no further than Dallas, where five police officers died. … The reason he called for the boycott was over MAGA. MAGA is pretty much unanimous with Blue Lives Matter these days, if you’ve seen the endorsements.”
A company spokesman declined to comment when asked if Goodyear had reached out to the White House after Trump’s tweet and comments.
Trump’s tweet set off a firestorm in Ohio.
Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, whose district includes part of Summit County, was the only Republican to directly respond to Trump’s call for a boycott.
“Cancel culture is wrong no matter who is doing it,” Gonzalez said. “Goodyear Tire is a great northeast Ohio company, and I’m going to continue buying their tires, but their corporate slide on acceptable speech was ridiculous. This is a silly controversy, and frankly we all have much more important things to be doing.”
Sen. Rob Portman did not say whether he agreed with Trump.
“I believe private companies are free to set their own guidelines, but I would hope they would do it fairly and objectively, with respect for free speech,” Portman said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initially declined to comment. Later in an interview with WSPD-AM in Toledo, DeWine said he hoped Trump would not tweet something like it again.
“Well if he does, he does,” DeWine said. “I’m not going to disclose my conversations with the president. I don’t think he’s going to do this again.”
DeWine’s prediction did not come to fruition. Trump doubled down on his call to not buy Goodyear tires during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, saying workers there would be able to get another job if the company loses money.
“I can guarantee I poll very well with all those workers in Goodyear,” Trump said.
Democrats in Congress, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan, condemned Trump’s remarks.