By Mofe Obadina

As one of his first acts since taking office, President Donald Trump issued a controversial executive order on January 21st, 2017.[1] This executive order banned immigrants from seven different countries and halted the refugee program from Syria indefinitely.[2] The public backlash and corporate response to this order are putting business under pressure to promptly stake out their public opinions in relation to the president’s legal agenda.[3]

Three weeks later during the highly anticipated Super Bowl commercials, many corporations used that coveted airtime to take a stand against the order.[4] Big business Coca-Cola aired a multilingual version of “America the Beautiful”.[5] Airbnb, ran a commercial, “We Accept,” showing a diverse series of faces and flashing text about inclusion and acceptance.[6] In the days following the executive order, when taxis in major cities went on a strike in protest, Uber, in a poorly calculated move, sent out drivers to airports without initiating surge-pricing.[7] This move was met with stiff resistance and the #DeleteUber movement began trending on social media.[8] Nordstrom recently removed all Ivanka Trump products from its stores.[9] The company said poor sales caused the removal but many believe that it’s the company’s way of making their own statement denouncing the controversial ban.[10] Other companies are voicing their opposition the executive order using other means.[11]

In the Trump era, businesses large and small are facing harsh backlash for using “political moments” for corporate gain.[12] Those corporations that are viewed as complicit in Trump’s agenda often suffer the brunt of consumer backlash.[13] Such popular reaction to Trump’s policies and legal decisions are especially contentious for businesses such as Uber and Airbnb that rely heavily on certain segments of the population in bigger cities for their business.[14] While larger companies like Nordstrom and Coca-Cola, though they can afford these potential losses, are breaking their fundamental ways of doing business and using the play out of the law as a means to consolidate their customer base.[15]

Given the immediate popular activist response to the executive order, it seems now that regular customers clearly expect the corporate executives and CEOs to stand up against presidential actions that are perceived as discriminatory.[16] Whereas, the corporate world had previously been asked to step out of rulemaking processes, it seems that these corporations may find their customers frustrated with their silence on legal issues within the government.[17] Within the next few years of Trump’s presidency, it seems businesses and corporations will have to walk a very tight rope and learn the balance between appealing the customer base and staying on the “president’s good side.”[18] As they continue to walk that tightrope, even the executives, who are often the public faces of their companies, are not immune and often, bear the brunt of the response, when negative.[19] The action or inaction of corporate America in trying to adapt to an increasingly unpredictable and hyper-politicized business climate presents new lessons in corporate damage control, encourages new business practices and affects sales, market shares and investor confidence.[20] Needless to say, Trump’s immigration order will surely not be the last legal issue that divides corporate America.[21]

[1] Avi Asher-Schapiro, #DeleteUber signals a high stakes era for corporations under President Trump, Tribune Media Wire Special Report (Feb. 1, 2017, 1:52 PM),

[2] Id.

[3] Aamer Madhani, From Boeing and Nordstrom to Uber and Starbucks: What company is next to feel a Trump-era hit?, USA TODAY (Feb. 11, 2017, 6:04 AM),

[4] Asher-Schapiro, supra note 1.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Henry Grabar, The Uber Boycott and Lyft’s ACLU Donation Herald a New Era of Corporate Politics, SLATE (Jan. 30, 2017, 5:46 PM),

[8] Id.

[9] Madhani, supra note 3.

[10] Id.

[11] Daniel Roberts, Uber, Aribnb walk a tightrope in Trump era, Yahoo Finance (Feb. 6, 2017),; Grabar, supra note 7 (noting that Starbucks has pledged to hire 10,000 more refugees worldwide, Lyft pledged to donate $1 million over the next 4 years to the ACLU and tech companies in Silicon Valley (Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix) sent an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for 9th circuit Court opposing the executive order.).

[12] Roberts, supra note 11.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Asher-Schapiro, supra note 1.

[16] Id.; Roberts, supra note 11 (noting that the CEOs of Starbucks, Ford, Nike, Under Armour, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Google, Facebook, Apple and Netflix have been the ones putting out the statements of support or opposition against the executive order).

[17] Grabar, supra note 7.

[18] Madhani, supra note 3; Roberts, supra note 11.

[19] Roberts, supra note 11.

[20] Grabar, supra note 7; Madhani, supra note 3.

[21] Grabar, supra note 7; Roberts, supra note 11.

Share this post