Adidas Employees Plan to Stage Protest, Say Brand Should Practice What it Preaches on Racism

FN has learned that several minority employees at Adidas are planning to stage a protest after the brand this week orchestrated several high-profile moments aimed at lending its voice and platform to the fight against racial injustice in America.

In response to public actions taken by Adidas — including an anti-racism post on its own Instagram page as well as a historic retweet of longtime rival Nike’s video calling for an end to racial injustice — some employees at the brand’s North America headquarters in Portland, Ore. say they plan to protest on Friday a purported discrepancy between the brand’s external messaging and its internal actions.

“My existence at this brand is praised as diversity and inclusion, but when I look around, I see no one above or around that looks like me,” wrote Julia Bond, an assistant designer for Adidas Originals apparel, in a note she said she sent to Adidas’ North American leadership on Wednesday. “I can no longer stand for Adidas’ consistent complacency in taking active steps against a racist work environment. This is not business as usual.”

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In the memo, obtained by FN, Bond goes on to describe “a permeating fear of retaliation” among black people at the brand’s North America offices, adding that “in response to this fear, black people shrink themselves, their experiences, and their voices.”

“The systems in place that are killing black people are the same systems of oppression that are present at Adidas,” Bond writes, telling FN separately that she did not want to speak out anonymously because she is concerned it would diminish the critical nature of what she had to say.

The note continues, “Adidas has shown that there is a high tolerance for racism, even though publicly, they admonish it. How many times have I gone into HR about a racist incident — only to be met with responses about the inflictors intent versus their impact-thus negating my experience?”

Bond is requesting that Adidas issue a public apology “for the racism and discrimination that they have openly enabled and perpetuated” and said that she and several colleagues plan to protest on Friday as well as every day after until the apology is issued.

The internal backlash Adidas is experiencing is in tandem with an uptick in consumers and key fashion insiders taking to social media to call out people and brands who are taking to social media to join the anti-racism fray amid the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer.

However, Bond’s note is the latest in a series of diversity challenges that have impacted Adidas over the past two years. In an FN exclusive report in November 2018, multiple sources — identifying as racial and ethnic minorities — said that leaders at the German athletic brand’s Portland, Ore.-headquarters had failed to promote and treat people of color fairly.

“North America senior leaders foster, encourage and reward an exclusive all-white environment made up of the same individuals that are consistently promoted and spotlighted,” said one employee at the time, who accused leaders of the brand of withholding opportunities from African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other minorities while unjustly promoting their white counterparts. “They ostracize people of color and cultivate a high school ‘clique’ environment.”

Since then, similar accusations against the brand have surfaced from members of the LGBTQ community who described instances of alleged discrimination on the part of the company.

Adidas told FN in June 2019 that is was making progress on certain diversity and inclusion issues and that it recently expanded its Diversity and Inclusion team in North America to “focus on underrepresented communities in our workforce across the talent lifecycle.” It also said at the time that it conducts “ongoing workplace inclusion education and training for employees across North America.”

FN has reached out to Adidas for comment.

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