“Under Armour and the Bowmars broke up today,” Sarah Bowmar declared in a tweet yesterday. “I’ll do a blog post in a few days when I am no longer crying. #AntisWon.”
Yes, that’s Sarah Bowmar, who shot a black bear with a crossbow this spring in Alberta the day before her husband Josh impaled a black bear at a bait site with a homemade spear and set off a global furor once the video he posted got more eyeballs than the crew checking his Facebook page. The Daily Mirror, which broke the story, said he attached a GoPro to the spear so he’d have a particularly vivid recording of the human attack on the bear.
Sportswear giant Under Armour has cut ties with the Bowmars, and terminated its agreement with Sarah to act as a brand ambassador for women’s hunting.
Indeed, it’s good news that Under Armour has severed relations and indicated that it opposes spear hunting, saying that the “method Josh Bowmar used to harvest this animal was reckless and we do not condone this method of hunting.”
That said, let’s be clear that spearing is an uncommon practice and this was no profile in courage for Under Armour, and the company’s statement was very cautious and limited in scope. It did and said as little as it could to respond to the news ricocheting around the web about the company’s association with the Bowmars. While it now says it opposes spearing terrestrial wildlife, Under Armour did not come out against any other forms of cruelty in hunting, including the crossbow Sarah Bowmar used to wound a bear in Alberta, whose intestines spilled out of the agonized bear while he ran away in pain and terror. And apparently Under Armour has no problem with hunting in spring, when mothers could be rearing young leaving them orphaned and doomed to a slow death by starvation, or enticing animals to the kill spot with food bait—all part of the story surrounding the Bowmars’ bear killing escapades in Alberta.
Under Armour is an enormously successful and fast-growing Baltimore-based company, which projects revenues of $5 billion this year. It is more than a little commercially tangled up with the sport hunting industry, and was careful not to say anything that would offend any slice of its customer base—counting on the fact that the spear hunting fraternity is a small and marginal group. While CEO and founder Kevin Plank gets so much of the attention and credit for the company’s startling growth, a handful of other key executives are passionate sport hunting enthusiasts whose imprint on the company and its strategic direction is obvious. It has a major hunting line, an outdoor channel hunting show called “Ridge Reaper,” and actively markets its products to that sector of the public.
I get that companies like Cabela’s support just about any and all forms of hunting. It is essentially a seller of weapons, apparel, and all of the other accoutrements of hunting. But the hunting segment of Under Armour’s customer base is relatively small, and it has a largely mainstream audience for whom the idea of killing an animal for trophies and by unfair methods is out of favor. So if it’s going to stay so big in the hunting business, it might as well try and do some good that also reflects the wishes of most decent minded people. It should have some coherence and some minimal standards on hunting issues at the very least. No captive hunts from which animals have no hope of escape, no spring hunting, no use of dogs or baiting, no killing of threatened and endangered species, and no killing simply for a trophy with no other purpose would be a good start.
Saying that you’re opposed to spearing is a good beginning, but not much more than that.
Josh Bowmar’s giddy and ruthless spearing of a key predator, and the Bowmars’ obvious close ties to the company, amounts to a wake-up moment for the world about Under Armour’s close association with the trophy hunting community. Looking at UA’s online roster of celebrity brand ambassadors, epic athletes such as Steph Curry and Lindsey Vonn, and you’ll see that their approach, involving self-sacrifice and human-on-human competition, contrasts sharply with people who take and kill and pick on other creatures and masquerade as participants of sport.
Under Armour now gives me pause. It’s no model of the humane economy. Not yet at least.