Wildlife campaigners plead with Andy Murray to split with clothing sponsor over animal hunting connections


NDY Murray has been urged to quit the US sportswear giants who supply his gear over an animal hunting row.

The new world tennis No1 is halfway through a four-year kit deal with Under Armour, believed to be worth around £15million.

But the firm have become embroiled in controversy due to a range for hunting fans to use on kills.

They sell camouflage gear including a Big Game range, which they say is built for “running and gunning across the harshest terrain”.

The official Twitter page of Under Armour Hunt, who have more than 60,000 ­followers, features ­hunters wearing their products and posing for pictures with prey they have killed.

Campaigners believe Andy, a huge animal lover, would be horrified if he knew the extent of his sponsor’s link to hunting.

In 2014, he became a global ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund supporting the fight against poaching.

Andy is one of the most sought after athletes in the world. Yesterday, he increased his commercial pull when he leapfrogged Novak Djokovic in the ATP rankings after his opponent Milos Raonic withdrew from their semi final in the semi final of the Paris Masters.

The star – who is now in game’s the No1 spot for the first time – posed with an elephant’s tusk and other confiscated wildlife items when he was announced as the WWF global ambassador.

He threw his weight behind the fight against poaching.

Andy Murray is a global ambassador for WWF to help fight poaching and illegal wildlife trade

Murray also helped launch a ­campaign to train sniffer dogs who would could track down poacher activity within Chitwan ­National Park in Nepal.

In August, Under Armour cut their ties with brand ambassador Sarah ­Bowmar who sparked global outrage after filming her hunter husband ­spearing a bear to death.

Bowmar and bodybuilder husband Josh, both keen hunters, left the animal to die an excruciating death.

The company said afterwards they would no longer support ­Bowmar who was a brand ambassador for their ­“first-ever women’s ­hunting campaign”.

Under Armour sponsor some of the world’s top ­athletes including Andy, 29, swimmer Michael Phelps and golfer Jordan Spieth. They also make kits for ­English ­Premiership clubs Tottenham Hotspur and ­Southampton. In ­Scotland, Queen’s Park and Airdrie wear their shirts.

Masha Kalinina, who leads Humane Society International’s campaign to end trophy hunting, said: “Under Armour have managed to keep their affiliation with trophy hunters under the radar of the public.

“In fact, their roots in hunting are very deep in that two of the founders – vice president Bryan Offutt and chief product officer Kip Fulks – are avid trophy ­hunters. They also created a television show called Ridge Reaper that’s very popular and has featured both of them hunting.

“We sent a letter last year asking them to end their sponsorship of this kind of programme but received no response.

This line from Under Armour is popular with trophy hunters

“I think the incident involving the bear in August led to the link between the company and this horrible practice finally being brought to light.

“The ­company said they don’t condone ­spearing of animals – but stopped there. There are many athletes on their roster – some of the biggest names you can imagine. We are going to try to reach out to them to put this on their radar.

“I think Andy perhaps simply doesn’t know the extent of their links with ­hunting. I think he would be horrified if he knew about their affiliation.

“He is a great guy and we know he has done a lot for animals.”

Jordi Casamitjana, head of policy and research at League Against Cruel Sports said: “Andy Murray seems a great ­advocate for animals.

“Once he learns about Under Armour’s American arm, who market hunting clothes for big game hunting, we hope he’ll want to distance himself from this.

“Trophy hunting is unacceptable and should be banned.”

Elisa Allen, director of Peta UK, said: “By making these ‘caveperson’ clothes, Under Armour are undercutting their own attempt to brand themselves as cool and modern.

“There is nothing progressive or ­sporting about attacking animals who simply want to live unmolested.

“We urge compassionate people to steer well clear of brands that make any money off the murder of ­defenceless living beings.”

Harry Huyton, director of Edinburgh animal protection charity ­OneKind, said: “UnderArmour’s ­glorification of bloodsports through #UAHunt is ­offensive to the vast majority in this country who oppose the killing of ­innocent animals for pleasure.

Masha Kalinina of the Humane Society

“Killing for pleasure is not a sport. Tennis, however, is a great sport, and Andy Murray is one of our finest ­sportsmen.

“I hope he will use his influence with Under Armour to encourage them to stop promoting animal cruelty.”

Murray said at the time of his ­WWF appointment: “I’ve followed WWF’s work on the illegal wildlife trade for a while now and been looking for a way to ­support their work.”

The WWF said yesterday: “We’re proud to work with Andy Murray.

“He’s done important work to help support efforts to double wild tiger ­numbers and battle against the illegal wildlife trade.

“We’re very ­grateful for his ongoing support to shift opinions on issues that impact on conservation worldwide.”

An Under Armour spokeswoman said at the time of the Bowmar controversy: “The method used to harvest this animal was reckless and we do not condone it.

“We are dedicated to the hunting ­community and support hunting that is conducted in compliance with ­applicable federal, state and local laws and hunting practices that ensure a responsible and safe harvest of the ­animal.”

Under Armour and Andy’s representative did not respond to our request for a comment.

[Source:-Daily Reord]