President Donald Trump trained his social media fire on Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company Wednesday morning, calling for a boycott of the company’s tires as retribution for what Trump said was their decision to ban his trademark red “Make America Great Again” hats.
In Akron, Ohio, where the company is located, the missive was met with a mix of consternation and anger.
Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic congressman who represents the Akron area, said the tweet was a “holy shit” moment in a presidency that’s already been full of them. Ryan told The Daily Beast his immediate reaction was “a little bit shocked at the level of stupidity” on the part of the president. “This is an iconic American company in a swing state… it’s really, really dumb politically. But it shows the problem that he has—that it’s more about him than it is about other people.”
“He’s directly saying,” said Ryan, “he wants to put you out of a job.”
That message could be particularly debilitating in an area where 11.1 percent of the population was unemployed, according to June numbers for Akron from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and in a region where the departures of factories has already caused untold damage to the community. Lordstown, the infamous GM plant that closed in 2019, is located just 40 minutes east of Goodyear’s headquarters.
In 2017, Trump made a trip to Lordstown and made promises to save the plant’s jobs—even reassuring workers not to sell their homes in the area. With the plant now deserted and Trump now targeting another area company, Ryan predicted that the damage “starts to accumulate at some point. That’s basically what’s happening.”
The Trump tweet briefly left Steve Millard, president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber at a loss for words. While he wasn’t familiar with what the company had done to enrage the president, he made clear “there are probably far more important things for him to be thinking about than whether or not Goodyear is letting people wear his hats.”
The issue appears to be linked to an incident in Kansas that was reported on by a local television station in the Topeka area. According to a story from WIBW, a Goodyear staffer took a photo of a slide classified as “zero tolerance,” that listed “MAGA Attire,” and “Political Affiliated Slogans or Material,” along with “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” as unacceptable, but denoted “Black Lives Matter” or LGBT pride as being acceptable.
In a statement following the president’s tweet, the company said, “The visual in question was not created or distributed by Goodyear corporate, nor was it part of a diversity training class.” But in order to have a work place without discrimination or harassment, the company said, associates are asked to not don items “in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party, as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues.”
The office of Akron’s mayor responded to Trump’s missive with a pair of tweets from its official Twitter account, showing support for the company that “has believed in this community for generations, investing in the power, tenacity and honest people of the heartland, which is more than we can say for this president.”
“First, you came to destroy American decency,” @AkronOhioMayor tweeted at Trump. “Next, you came to destroy American institutions. Now you’re coming to destroy the American economy and heartland jobs. Luckily you seem to fail at everything you do.”
The account then posted a GIF of Akron’s most famous native son, NBA star LeBron James, dressed as a judge, waving his finger at the camera.
The pandemic has had an impact on Goodyear, Millard said, citing a “pretty tough last couple of quarters,” for the company. He was also doubtful the president’s tweet would be remembered in the long run or affect the company.
“But, of course, it doesn’t make any sense for the president to be sort of making comments about job creators and anchor organizations like Goodyear for how they support or don’t support his ability to merchandise his brand,” Millard said.