NEW YORK, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Japanese motoring company Kawasaki said on Wednesday it was ending its association with reality TV show “The New Celebrity Apprentice” because of President-elect Donald Trump’s continued involvement as an executive producer.
Citing feedback from customers, unease among its executives, and a grassroots boycott campaign, Kawasaki said it would no longer sponsor or take part in the show.
“Once we understood the concerns of American citizens, we have taken the approach of agreeing not to participate in the show in the future as long as Mister Trump is involved as an executive producer,” Kawasaki spokesman Kevin Allen said in a telephone interview.
The decision followed the airing on Sunday of an episode in which contestants were asked to design a marketing campaign for a new Kawasaki motor bike.
Movie star and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced Trump as host of “The Celebrity Apprentice” last year after the New York businessman began his campaign for the White House.
But Trump, who originated the “Apprentice” role in 2004, retained an executive producer credit, which usually involves payment, despite being elected as U.S. president in November.
Allen said Kawasaki was not aware that Trump would keep the executive producer title when the company agreed to take part in the show under Schwarzenegger in the summer of 2016.
“The New Celebrity Apprentice” airs on NBC, which could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Allen acknowledged the influence of the #grabyourwallet social media campaign, which urges Americans to stop shopping at about 70 companies that do business with Trump or his family, have advertised on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” or have contributed funds to his presidential campaign.
“The concerns from our own customers, as well as the #grabyourwallet campaign did seize the attention of our executives,” he said.
Kawasaki was being asked, “How could we support a show that was essentially created by Mister Trump and who was still involved?” Allen said
Trump is to be inaugurated as U.S. president in Washington on Friday. There was no immediate response from his staff to Kawaski’s decision. (Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)