Kevin Plank and Under Armour Step Up PPE Production During Coronavirus Crisis

As the world reels from the onslaught of the coronavirus, we see two Baltimore businesses leveraging their resources to assist hospitals and healthcare who are under attack from a shortage of medical supplies. Both have ties to Kevin Plank, the founder and Chairman of Under Armour and CEO of Sagamore Spirit Whiskey Company. Kevin Plank joins the Maryland Coronavirus Recovery Team. Under Armour, founded by Kevin Plank, is repurposing its Baltimore innovation hub, equipment, talent, design, and labor to help health care systems defend against coronavirus. Under Armour has begun to manufacture and assemble face masks, face shields, and specially equipped fanny packs.

Masks, Gowns, and Supply Kits in Short Supply

When the call came in from local medical providers for more masks, gowns, and supply kits, the team at Under Armour focused on designing a protective mask that could be produced quickly and in high numbers. The resulting mask made from a breathable moisture-resistant fabric can be folded into the desired shape without any sewing. Production of the masks is taking place at the Lighthouse, Under Armour’s innovation hub at City Garage in Port Covington. They are utilizing the lab’s knife cutter, one of the world’s most efficient high-speed fabric cutting machines to cut masks from 100 pieces of fabric at once. It’s predicted they can produce as many as 100,000 masks a week.

Manufacturing Masks Instead of Clothing

Once the masks are cut out, they are passed on to a group of Under Armour teammate volunteers and hospitals for folding and distribution using the former Walmart building in Port Covington, which forms part of the footprint for the company’s Port Covington campus. The Omni Distribution House in Sparrows Point has been opened up to allow the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to stage medical supplies there. The company deployed a fresh supply of the no-sew masks to the nonclinical staff and asymptomatic patients at Johns Hopkins hospital last week. The 20,000 fabric masks will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in compliance with the health system’s universal masking policy. The masks are the second contribution made by Under Armour to help in the fight against the coronavirus.

Giving Back to the Community from Humble Beginnings 

Kevin Plank came from humble beginnings while at the University of Maryland. He had an interesting idea to improve the undershirts football players wore under their uniforms. Setting up shop in his grandmother’s basement in Georgetown, the entrepreneur gathered a small community of athletes to wear and test his new product. The company soon took off and relocated to an office in Baltimore and expanded its product line to become one of the world’s largest sports apparel brands. Baltimore is fast becoming the primary focus of not only Under Armour’s philanthropy but Plank’s personal charitable efforts as well. Under Armour donated all of the fresh food headed for the cafeteria at the company’s global headquarters to Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore in the middle of March as the COVID-19 crisis took hold. The company also pledged $2 million to relief efforts supporting people affected by the pandemic.

Finding New Ways to Contribute During a Crisis

Under Armour Founder and Executive Chairman Kevin Plank is also the owner of Sagamore Spirit in Port Covington. The rye whiskey distillery has halted whiskey production to produce hand sanitizer for local healthcare workers and first responders aiding in the fight against the coronavirus. Plank’s Sagamore Spirit whiskey company is preparing to produce antimicrobial hand sanitizer which will go to Maryland health providers. Johns Hopkins has been advising the company on manufacturing the sanitizer to meet WHO and FDA standards for safety and efficacy.

Sagamore Spirit has enough isopropyl alcohol to produce an initial 54,000 liters of sanitizer, but says it will be able to expand to as much 100,000 liters per month if “certain supply chain and regulatory challenges can be solved.” Sagamore Spirit is urging members of Congress to temporarily waive “an arcane statute” that requires the use of isopropyl alcohol for denaturing. According to Sagamore Spirit, isopropyl alcohol is also in short supply.

“There is no higher priority than serving the growing and vital needs of the health professionals who are selflessly giving of themselves for the greater good of all,” said Brian Treacy, president of Sagamore Spirit, in a statement. “Everyone at Sagamore Spirit feels it in their hearts and is prepared to contribute to this global effort the best they possibly can. We feel fortunate to have not only the will, but also the expertise and manufacturing capacity to make a difference, and at a meaningful level if Congress chooses to act.” Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine said, “This is a fantastic example of the support we are receiving from the community, businesses, and individuals. Kevin Plank and Sagamore Spirit understand the gravity of the current situation, and they have stepped forward in a major way.”

Plank’s personal philanthropy includes his two foundations, the Plank Family Foundation and the Cupid Foundation. Both have supported a wide range of programs in the Baltimore area, and Plank has personally made significant donations to educational institutions that he attended. Kevin Plank has a lengthy philanthropic history beginning in 1999 while still trying to gain traction for Under Armour. At the time his former college roommate was involved in a serious sports accident that left him a quadriplegic and Plank funded a customized wheelchair for him. In addition to joining the Maryland coronavirus recovery team, Plank also donated tens of millions of dollars and countless hours to CollegeBound, the UA House, the Dingman Center’s endowment fund, St. John’s High School, the Cold Field House project, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and others. Today, Plank oversees a global company of 9,000-plus employees, with total revenue of more than $3 billion.