Exclusive: Under Pressure, Adidas Ups the Ante on Racial Disparity Issues — Will Donate $120 Million to Black Communities

Update: Adidas Sends Series of Tweets Outlining New Diversity Goals, 3:30 p.m. ET

Adidas this afternoon took to its Twitter account to send several messages regarding its plans to better support its black employees as well as the African-American community at large.

“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 chain of tweets, which includes a photo with the words “Black Lives Matter,” begins. “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 – effective immediately.”

Adidas goes on to outline specific goals in those key areas, including a plan, reported earlier by FN, to increase to $120 million its investment in programs that support black communities over the next four years. What’s more, noted the Germany-based brand, 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.

What We Reported Earlier, 12:30 p.m. ET

At a meeting today between Adidas top executives and several staffers at the brand who had formed a coalition to fight purported racial disparity, the company agreed to significantly up the ante on certain initiatives aimed at supporting black employees and the larger community.

At the meeting, held at 9 a.m. PST in Portland, Ore., Adidas North America leadership told employees that the company would increase to $120 million its investment in programs that support black communities over the next four years — a $100 million improvement from the $20 million commitment the company announced yesterday.

Sourced told FN that while the company did not outright deliver the much-desired apology requested by hundreds of black Adidas employees, including the more than 200 staffers represented by the 13-member coalition, top leaders — including North America brand president Zion Armstrong — addressed “all” the group’s asks “head on.”

It’s been a challenging few weeks for the Germany-based athletic footwear and apparel maker, which has had to contend with multiple employee demonstrations as well as a sit-out as black staffers and their allies petitioned the brand for change in how its supports minority talent.

Yesterday, 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 had outlined three immediate steps they planned to take in order to address purported racial disparities at the company.

The company had said it would invest $20 million 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.

The 13-member coalition, which was formed early this month and now represents more than 200 Adidas employees, had called the response “laughable” and said the hundreds of employees who have been participating in a sit-out since Friday would continue to do so.

About a week and a half ago, several black Adidas employees  formed the coalition then-representing over 100 employees with the goal of 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” — it’s this document that sources told FN was addressed in detail at today’s meeting.

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 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.”

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 team members.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that Adidas planned to donate $120 million to black communities over the next five years. It has been updated to reflect the brand’s plan to donate $120 million over the next four years.

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