Camping World CEO Expands On Comments Critical Of France's Public Support Of Trump
Camping World Chair & CEO Marcus Lemonis this morning spoke in-depth on NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France’s endorsement last night of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, noting that he has no plans to seek an early exit from his company’s Truck Series title sponsorship deal with NASCAR, but that he does not agree with France's move. Lemonis’ company, which first entered NASCAR in ’09 and signed a seven-year extension in '14 that started this year, is contracted to be title sponsor of the Camping World Truck Series through ’22 with a $5M-plus annual commitment. Lemonis’ company successfully pushed for the series' postseason gala last year to be moved from Trump National Doral in Miami after Trump’s comments about Mexican immigration, piquing interest about his thoughts on last night’s move. Speaking this morning after hearing of France's endorsement, Lemonis began by noting the "beautiful thing about the country that we live in is that people have the right to choose and vote for whoever they want,” and that he loves “the fact that the debates are drawing the numbers they are and the election is getting the coverage that it’s getting.” Lemonis: “When you lay the freedom of discussion about any topic in this country, it has to still be the freedom of discussion, which isn’t impugning your personal views on employees and customers. People ask me all the time who I’m voting for and what my opinions are. I keep that to myself because it’s a very personal and private matter. But if I chose to engage in that debate, it would be in the confines of a private environment."
REASONS NOT TO GO PUBLIC: Lemonis explained why he would not go public with any political endorsement, saying, "When you control a business, it is very difficult to make sure that the lines don’t get blurry. And you work for constituencies. The two constituencies you work for are your customers and employees. It is not your right to leverage your ability to speak; it’s not your right to leverage the power of access that you have. If you run a business or own a business, you have a different sort of access than the rest of the community. I’m not in favor of business owners or CEOs leveraging their disproportionate access to communicate a message that is polarizing or maybe takes away someone’s individual thoughts or impugns your personal opinion on somebody." He continued, "You don’t see (Apple CEO) Tim Cook talking about his favorite team that he hopes wins the Super Bowl on a public forum where you may have Apple customers or employees feel like they can’t root for their favorite team, because people will be fearful of going against the boss.”
NOT GOING ANYWHERE FOR A WHILE: Lemonis rejected any talk of Camping World seeking to get out of its deal with NASCAR following France and several current and former drivers appearing at a Trump campaign rally last night in Valdosta, Ga. He said, “I am not going to give Brian France the credit for him to think that him crossing the line that I just defined is going to affect our support of a sport that has tons of fans and teams. I’m not going to give him the credit that his crossing that line would warrant us picking a side when at the end of the day, our allegiance is to the sport, which is much bigger than Brian France, and the teams and drivers, which is much bigger than Brian France, and to the fans who love the sport, which clearly is much bigger than Brian France. Brian France is not NASCAR. NASCAR is made up of the millions of fans who have their own views of the favorite sports teams, drivers, politicians and religion.” NASCAR did not make any additional comment upon request, standing by its previous statement calling France’s endorsement a "private, personal decision.”