Shoe entrepreneur Steve Madden, whose eponymous company was just named Footwear News “Company of the Year” for 2017, is making the press rounds to promote his new documentary, “Maddman: The Steve Madden Story.” And in an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle at AOL Build studio on Friday, he had some interesting things to say about President Donald Trump.
Madden, who once lived in a Trump-owned building (not Trump Tower), was asked about Trump by Yahoo Lifestyle reporter Alex Mondalek. He began with kind words: “I wish him well, I do,” he said. “I disagree with some of the stuff that he does. I wish he was more sensitive to our less fortunate… and the racial stuff. It would be more soothing for the country. I am rooting for him to do well. You know, we’re all in the country.”
He continued: “In particular, I was particularly upset about the criticism of Colin Kaepernick. I think that his kneeling is very respectful, frankly. And there’s some injustice. And I think the beauty of the National Anthem is that we have the right to express — that’s the beauty of America. That’s what the National Anthem is all about, is that you have the right. This is not a totalitarian country. And you can’t, at the foot of a boot, be forced to salute the flag. That’s the beauty of it.”
Trump has repeatedly called out Kaepernick, criticized his political protest, and said the NFL should have suspended him to end his protest.
In October, speaking to Sean Hannity, Trump said, “I watched Colin Kaepernick and I thought it was terrible. And then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming… The NFL should have suspended him for one game and he would have never done it again. They could have then suspended him for two games and they could have suspended him again, if he did it a third time, for the season. And you would have never had a problem.”
Madden’s comments are significant in a time when public companies and business leaders are increasingly being forced to take a political side on issues like the NFL player protests (which Colin Kaepernick, no longer in the league, began last season) and violent political events like the Nazi rally in Charlottesville. Last month, Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter took heat from consumers after he said on the company’s earnings call that the NFL player protests were to blame for flat pizza sales; the company later apologized in a series of tweets.
Madden, who was convicted to 41 months in prison in 2002 for stock fraud, gained widespread name recognition again from the 2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
He later added that when he goes to sports events and the National Anthem plays, “I sing at the top of my lungs just to annoy my son. Because my dad did that with me, and I was always so embarrassed… But I just think that’s the beauty of it, we have the right to do that.”