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UPDATED Adidas Employees Are Calling for HR Chief’s Resignation, Say She Dismissed Race Issues as ‘Noise’

Update: Some Adidas Minority Employees Show Support for CHRO, 9 p.m. ET

FN has learned that some members of the coalition and the 200-plus employees it represents are not calling for the resignation of Karen Parkin. What’s more, some of these employees and coalition members are working with Parkin on a diversity and inclusion global initiative for the brand.

This story is developing.

What We Reported Earlier, 1:30 p.m. ET

A 13-member coalition and the more than 200 Adidas employees it represents are calling for the resignation of Karen Parkin, the brand’s chief human resources officer and member of its executive board, FN has learned.

The outcry stems from comments Parkin made last year at a company meeting in Boston at Adidas-owned-brand Reebok — in response to a question regarding reports that Adidas was facing significant challenges in how it treated minority employees.

Parkin, sources told FN, described concerns over racial disparities as “noise” and further suggested the company did not need to take action as the criticisms were only present in its North America offices for Adidas.

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In an internal memo sent to Adidas staffers today Parkin, whose been CHRO since November 2014, expressed regret for her commentary — adding that she should have chosen a “better word” in describing how the company “viewed issues of race.”

The development comes after weeks of diversity and inclusion challenges at the Germany-based company’s offices in Portland, Ore. Roughly two years of turmoil came to a head for Adidas last week when two groups — the 200-plus collective supported by the coalition, and another, led by Julia Bond, assistant designer for Adidas Originals apparel — engaged in days of protests demanding change in how the brand treats it black staffers.

Early this month, 13 black employees at Adidas united to form the coalition with the explicit goal of yielding swift and permanent change in how the company supports its black team members and community at-large — with an added emphasis on pushing the brand’s top management in Germany to drive the organizational reset.

On June 2, the group — then representing about 100 employees — delivered to Adidas North America management, including president Zion Armstrong, a 32-page deck, dubbed “Our State of Emergency.”

In addition to claims that management “doesn’t grasp the discrimination minorities might face” and that “the difference in perception is largest in Germany,” the document had listed four major “asks.” The coalition had demanded the company invest in its black employees; the black community; the fight for racial justice and change for black people — and demonstrate accountability.

As top execs mulled the demands, hundreds of minority staffers had agreed among themselves to a sit-out, in which they would all turn on their “out of office” emails until they had received the details of a go-forward strategy from management.

Meanwhile, other employees, organized by Bond had started gathering at the company’s HQ daily to protest purported discrepancies between the brand’s public messaging around racial justice and its own treatment of minority employees. Bond and her supporters had also asked management for an apology regarding the company’s treatment of black team members.

On Wednesday, Adidas leaders held a meeting in which they laid out several major steps the company planned to take “immediately” to address pass wrongs and create a better culture inclusive of black employees.

“First, we need to give credit where it’s long overdue: The success of Adidas would be nothing without Black athletes, Black artists, Black employees, and Black consumers. Period,” the brand wrote in chain of tweets, which included a photo with the words “Black Lives Matter.” “It’s time to own up to our silence: Black Lives Matter. Here is how we are committing to change across People, Communities, and Accountability.”

The company has committed to, among other things, increasing to $120 million its investment in programs that support black communities over the next four years. It also promises that 30% of all open internal and external positions will be filled with black and Latinx talent while 50% of all open positions will be filled with diverse talent.

Adidas further pledged to enforce a “zero tolerance” policy on racial discrimination, noting “If there is evidence of retaliation offenders will be terminated. To ensure fairness and safety we are putting in place a 3rd party investigator to govern our policy and keep us accountable.”

It concluded, “This is our commitment to the Black community, and the world. We can change, and we will. This is just the start.”

Neither Reebok or Adidas immediately responded to FN’s request for comment.

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