L.L. Bean rebuffs boycott over granddaughter’s big Trump donation

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer
A man wipes off the headlights of the L.L. Bean Bootmobile in the parking lot at the facility where the famous outdoor boot is made. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

L.L. Bean is pushing back against a boycott led by a group urging consumers not to shop at retailers that support President-elect Donald Trump after it was revealed that Linda Bean, heir of the Maine-based company’s founder, had donated to a political action committee that helped elect Trump.

“We are deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L. Bean as a supporter of any political agenda,” Shawn Gorman, L.L. Bean’s executive chairman, said in a statement posted to Facebook late Sunday. “L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics.”

Last week, the Associated Press reported that Linda Bean, a longtime Republican activist and granddaughter of Leon Leonwood Bean, contributed $60,000 to the Making America Great Again LLC. According to the Federal Election Commission, the donation exceeded the PAC’s contribution limit.

In response, Grab Your Wallet, a group that advocates boycotting companies that “do business with the Trump family,” added L.L. Bean to its running list of pro-Trump entities. (Among them: Amazon, Macy’s, NASCAR and Walmart.)

But L.L. Bean said the boycott against its company is “simply misguided,” considering Linda Bean is one of more than 50 family members involved with the business.

“Like most large families, the more than 50 family member-owners of the business hold views and embrace causes across the political spectrum, just as our employees and customers do,” Gorman said. “And as every member of the family would agree, no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built.”

Linda Bean is a member of L.L. Bean’s 10-member board of directors.

Shannon Coulter, who co-founded Grab You Wallet in October after Trump’s controversial comments about women were revealed in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, told Maine Public Radio that the group would drop L.L. Bean from its list if the company dropped Linda Bean from the board.

“As fans of L.L. Bean’s products, everybody is hoping that the company is really seriously evaluating whether or not Linda Bean’s presence and contributions to the company are worth the damage she continues to inflict on L.L. Bean’s brand and reputation,” Coulter said.

“We fully acknowledge and respect that some may disagree with the political views of a single member of our 10-person board,” Gorman said. “And we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position.”

In lobbying against the boycott, L.L. Bean is trying to avoid the backlash fellow Northeast retailer New Balance received after a spokesman for the Boston-based company came out in support of Trump’s trade policies after his election victory.

“The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us,” Matt LeBretton, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “And frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.”

New Balance also posted a statement to Facebook saying LeBretton’s remarks were taken out of context.

“New Balance does not tolerate bigotry or hate in any form,” the company said in its Facebook post.

“My loyalty to New Balance ended today,” one woman wrote in response. “You endorsed a vile excuse for a human being whose policies are going to cause a lot of suffering to people, animals and the environment. My boyfriend and I have bought your shoes and sportswear for decades, now I’d rather go barefoot than wear anything with the NB logo.”

The shoe manufacturer was subsequently embraced by the so-called alt-right.

“Neo-Nazis have declared New Balance the ‘Official Shoes of White People,’” the Washington Post reported.

“I’m a Nike guy. Or rather, I was,” Andrew Anglin, a noted neo-Nazi blogger, wrote in a post on his website, the Daily Stormer. “It’s time to get on-board with New Balance now. Their brave act has just made them the official brand of the Trump Revolution.”

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