Yesterday, Levi’s brand president, Jennifer Sey, quit her job so she could be free to express her political opinions without being bullied by her coworkers.
In a powerful piece posted to Bari Weiss’ ‘Common Sense‘ Substack, Sey wrote a tell-all about her long history with the company, spanning over two decades, and how it all came to an end after they tried to extinguish her freedom of speech.
In 1986 Sey was 17 years old, and the reigning national champion in gymnastics. That year she traveled to Moscow for the Goodwill Games and brought 10 pairs of Levi’s, which immediately grabbed the attention of the Russian gymnasts.
Sey wrote that her denim represented “American ruggedness, freedom, [and] individualism” at the time. Today, however, Sey writes that Levi’s has “lost sight of the values that made people everywhere – including those gymnasts in the former Soviet Union – want to wear Levi’s.
The former Levi’s brand president has always felt strongly about her political advocacy – until recently – which has always focused on kids and their well-being.
Back in 2008, Sey published a memoir detailing the dark side of gymnastics and the degradation of children. While the gymnastics community threatened and berated her, calling her a “bitter loser” and a liar, Levi’s stood by her and called her a hero.
“Things changed when COVID hit,” wrote Sey. “I publicly questioned whether schools had to be shut down… I wrote op-eds, appeared on local news shows… I was condemned for speaking out. This time, I was called a racist – a strange accusation given that I have two black sons – a eugenicist, and a QAnon conspiracy theorist.”
Although she has two black sons, people whose opinions clash with her own – on a topic that has nothing to do with race – immediately label her a racist and a conspiracy theorist.
It wasn’t long before Sey got a call from Levi’s head of corporate communications, imploring her to stop sharing her personal opinions because she was speaking on behalf of Levi’s. “My title is not in my Twitter bio,” responded Sey. “I’m speaking as a public school mom of four kids.”
While Levi’s didn’t explicitly tell her to stop sharing her opinions, they did tell her to “think about what [she] was saying”. The hypocrisy of all of this came to the surface when Sey saw her colleagues posting constantly about the need to oust Trump, without receiving any disciplinary calls from Levi’s HR department.
In fact, her former company has been incredibly vocal on the issues of gay rights, voting rights, and gun safety. It became obvious to Sey that she was only allowed to discuss politics if her views lined up with her company’s public political stances.
Despite being asked to be the executive sponsor of the Black Employee Resource Group, spending years fighting for kids’, and having two black children of her own, she was still told by HR that she was being classist and racist.
Sey was offered a severance package after refusing to go on an “apology tour” for expressing her views on school closures. She refused this offer so she could share her story with others.
“In the last month, the CEO told me that it was “untenable” for me to stay,” wrote Sey. “I was offered a $1 million severance package, but I knew I’d have to sign a nondisclosure agreement about why I’d been pushed out. The money would be very nice. But I just can’t do it. Sorry, Levi’s.”
The last few paragraphs of this piece by Sey are particularly powerful:
“[Levi’s is] trapped trying to please the mob—and silencing any dissent within the organization. In this it is like so many other American companies: held hostage by intolerant ideologues who do not believe in genuine inclusion or diversity.
In my more than two decades at the company, I took my role as manager most seriously. I helped mentor and guide promising young employees who went on to become executives. In the end, no one stood with me. Not one person publicly said they agreed with me, or even that they didn’t agree with me, but supported my right to say what I believe anyway.”
“I’ll always wear my old 501s. But today I’m trading in my job at Levi’s. In return, I get to keep my voice. “
Fox News discussed this story today with Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), who said “This is sad, and it’s a sad tale of where the country is going.”
Waltz then called Levi’s “hypocritical”, bringing up all the different instances of the company’s political involvement, yet, when Sey expressed political opinions on her private social media she was ‘canceled’ because her views didn’t align with the company’s public affiliations.
“Levi’s has spoken out on immigration policy, gun control policy, social justice issues, and that kind of political speech is okay, apparently,” said Waltz.