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New Balance decries bigotry after endorsement from neo-Nazi site

FILE — A worker inspects and cleans a New Balance 990 running shoe before boxing it, at the New Balance manufacturing plant in Lawrence, Mass., Sept. 26, 2012. American companies, including New Balance, have had to tailor messages they put out either supporting or opposing President-elect Donald Trump after a growing backlash against their products. (Matthew Cavanaugh/The New York Times)

Matthew Cavanaugh/The New York Times

A worker inspected and cleaned a New Balance shoe in Lawrence.

An “alt-right” website for white supremacists is encouraging its followers to buy shoes from New Balance in a show of solidarity after a company representative said last week that president-elect Donald Trump’s victory was good for American manufacturing.

The website “The Daily Stormer,” which identifies itself as a source for Republican news but is filled with anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, and white nationalist posts, has declared New Balance’s line of footwear the “Official Shoes of White People.”

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On Monday, New Balance said it has zero tolerance for “bigotry or hate in any form.”

“New Balance is a values-driven organization and culture that believes in humanity, integrity, community, and mutual respect for people around the world,” the Massachusetts-based company said in a statement.

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The call of support for New Balance came after Matt LeBretton, the shoemaker’s vice president of public affairs, praised Trump last week.

LeBretton told the Wall Street Journal that a Trump presidency was a move in the “right direction.”

New Balance quickly came under fire — quite literally — as patrons burned their shoes or threw them in the trash to protest LeBretton’s statement.

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The company later clarified that the comment referred to Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed international trade agreement shaped by the Obama administration that New Balance said would help its competitors.

New Balance said it had also supported Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s positions on trade that focused on US manufacturing jobs.

“One of our officials was recently asked to comment on a trade policy that was taken out of context,” the company said Monday. “We have been, and will always remain, committed to manufacturing in the United States.”

While some people destroyed their footwear, Andrew Anglin, founder of the The Daily Stormer, said New Balance apparel could become part of a “uniform” for followers of the website.

In a Nov. 12 post, Anglin encouraged readers to “get on-board” with the shoemaker. He said that while he believes New Balance’s public support for Trump may have been a marketing ploy, it was enough to win the website’s backing.

“New Balance is making a gesture to support White people and to support US manufacturing. We need to support that,” he wrote. “I see New Balances now becoming the official shoes of White people. I myself am due a new pair of sneakers.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.
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