Adidas Black Employees Say CEO Response to Race Issues Is ‘Laughable’

Adidas employees that united to form a coalition to petition the brand for change are deeply dissatisfied with its response and will continue to protest, sources tell FN.

In an internal memo obtained by FN — and now posted on the brand’s corporate site — Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted and the company’s board of directors today outlined three immediate steps they’re taking to address purported racial disparities at the company.

The company said it plans to increase to $20 million its investment in programs that support black communities; invest in university scholarships for black employees by financing 50 scholarships each year during the next five years; and increase its number of black employees by committing to filling 30% of all new positions in the U.S. at Adidas and owned-brand Reebok with black and Latinx talent.

A source who is a part of the 13-member coalition, which was formed early this month and now represents more than 200 Adidas employees, called the response “laughable” and said the hundreds of employees who have been participating in a sit-out since Friday will continue to do so. The source further indicated that the employees have secured the participation of several retail accounts that work with Adidas and that those companies will stand in solidarity with the brand’s staffers.

About a week and a half ago, a group of about 13 employees formed a coalition then-representing over 100 employees aimed at yielding swift and permanent change in how Adidas 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 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 listed four major “asks.” The coalition had asked the company to: invest in its black employees; invest in the black community; invest in the fight for racial justice and change for black people; and demonstrate accountability.

Each of the group’s requests had specific KPIs (key performance indicators) as well as proposed deadlines. For example, the coalition requested Adidas have 31% representation of black and Latinx employees at every level of the organization by Dec. 31, 2021.

The coalition had also given Adidas’ management a deadline of June 5, which the company honored, to make an internal announcement of its commitment as well as timeline of June 19 for a “global media announcement.”

Insiders tell FN that management’s response today is missing, among other things, the apology that black employees desperately wanted and also fell short of an anticipated $30 million or greater commitment to invest in black students. Further, some employees were concerned that the brand’s response was not informed by black executives who had sought to advise management on best steps.

Meanwhile, other employees, organized by Julia Bond, an assistant designer for Adidas Originals apparel, have been protesting since Friday a purported discrepancy between the brand’s public messaging around racial justice and its own treatment of minority employees. Bond and her supporters have also asked management for an apology regarding the company’s treatment of black employees.

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