Under Armour in a letter to employees vowed to shore up its culture after the Wall Street Journal came out with an extensive report on years of sexual misconduct at the firm, including a past practice of letting employees expense strip club visits.
The paper’s investigation into the culture at Under Armour followed workplace misbehavior that came out earlier this year at Nike and was based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former Under Armour employees and executives.
Under Armour said in a statement, “We have addressed these serious allegations of the past and will continue to address workplace behavior that violates our policies. Inappropriate behavior that challenges our values or violates our policies is unacceptable – and will not be tolerated. We are committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace.”
The aspect earning the most attention was the practice of enabling executives and employees to expense visits to strip clubs with athletes or co-workers after some corporate and sporting events. In February, Under Armour sent out a companywide email banning the trips, as well as gambling and adult entertainment.
The strip club visits — including some attended by CEO Kevin Plank — “were symptomatic of practices women at Under Armour found demeaning,” according to the Journal. Under Armour told the Journal that Plank didn’t conduct business at strip clubs or use company funds at such venues.
The newspaper’s investigation also found that “some top male executives violated company policy by behaving inappropriately with female subordinates.” Women were sometimes invited to an “annual company event based on their attractiveness to appeal to male guests” — a method referred to as “stocking the pond,” according to the report.
In a letter to employees attained by CNN, Plank and President Patrik Frisk said of the Journal report: “This was tough to read. This is not the culture we envision for Under Armour.”
The two executives said the company remains committed to a “meaningful cultural transformation” that they contend it already moving forward. “We can and will do better,” they added.
Earlier this year, several executives at rival Nike resigned due to complaints that its top leadership ignored or helped exacerbate a culture that is hostile and demeaning to women. Nike chairman and CEO Mark Parker said there were “behavioral issues that are inconsistent with Nike’s values.”
Here is the full letter that Plank and Frisk sent to employees Monday:
Dear UA Teammates,
Leadership means that when faced with scrutiny, criticism or accusations – the most important question to ask is if it’s deserved. At Under Armour, we own our truth.
We are writing to you today in response to an article that was published by the Wall Street Journal, which alleges specific instances of inappropriate workplace behavior and a challenging environment. This was tough to read. This is not the culture we envision for Under Armour.
We believe that there is systemic inequality in the global workplace and will embrace this opportunity to accelerate the ongoing meaningful cultural transformation that is already underway at Under Armour. We can and will do better.
You deserve to work in a respectful and empowering environment. Inappropriate behavior that challenges our values or violates our policies is unacceptable – and will not be tolerated. We believe that our diversity and collective decency will drive our future.
Greater than the professional talent and expertise that you bring to Under Armour is who you are as an individual – your heart, your values, your story. Your voice is critical and we continue to listen humbly and act decisively. We can’t protect this house if we are not protecting each other. This is leadership’s first priority and responsibility.
Our culture and values define us. Period. Over the past few years, we’ve designed and delivered a number of signature programs including our onboarding and leadership development courses, unconscious bias training, Culture Clubs, and our Diversity Driving Innovation platform. As we further strengthen this foundation and learn from the thoughtful work being executed already across our global organization, your leadership team remains steadfastly committed to:
* Enabling a work environment that allows you to be your best;
* Embracing and enforcing policies and protocols to improve the workplace;
* Providing safe, confidential channels (Teammate Resource Guide) to identify inappropriate behavior you experience, hear about or witness;
* Addressing inappropriate behavior swiftly and resolutely; and,
* Using Teammate Engagement Survey results to identify and activate specific, goal-oriented actions to strengthen our culture.
Our mission, Under Armour Makes You Better, is an ethos that spans significantly beyond shirts and shoes. It should inform every interaction we have with each other, creating the freedom for teammates to be their best self at work, at home and in their community.
We look forward to engaging you directly and honestly in the days and months ahead.
Kevin & Patrik
Image courtesy Under Armour