Adidas Employees To Reportedly Protest Brand’s ‘Racist Work Environment,’ Say Brand Should Practice What It Preaches On Racism

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PORTLAND, OREGONGerman sportswear, sneaker and apparel giant adidas is back in the headlines and it is not because of a new drop. They employees are fed and will let their voices be heard.

Amidst protests across the country in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee (recent Black victims who were killed either by the police or White men while jogging recently). 

According to Footwear News, several minority employees at adidas are planning to stage a protest after the brand 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 planned to protest last 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 adidasNorth 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.”

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 planned to protest last Friday as well as every day after until the apology is issued.

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.”

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.”

UPDATED Uprising at Adidas: Black Employees Form a Coalition to Pressure Top Management For Change:

UPDATE 2:

According to, Footwear News, “the group of Adidas employees represented by the 13-member coalition fighting for change at the company has grown in the past several hours to include more than 150 employees. Those staffers are from both the North America campus as well as the brand’s global headquarters in Germany“.

What’s more, the employees are mulling a plan for a several-days-long sickout, which would see individual staffers opt-in to turning on their “out of office” email alert until Tuesday when top management at Adidas is expected to deliver a go-forward plan to address purported racial disparities at the company.

UPDATE 1:

For the past few days, there has been a quiet uprising taking place among black employees at Adidas North America.

A group of about 13 employees last Friday united to form a coalition, representing over 100 employees, aimed at yielding swift and permanent change in how the organization 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.

FN reports that on Tuesday 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 lists four major “asks.” The coalition wants 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 have specific KPI’s (key performance indicators) as well as proposed deadlines. For example, the coalition is requesting Adidas have 31%  representation of black and Latinx employees at every level of the organization by Dec. 31, 2021. (It’s unclear what the current minority representation numbers are although in its 2019 Annual Report, Adidas touted progress in gender representation, noting  a total of 34% of women globally in management positions.)

It also asks that the company immediately implement a new hiring policy requiring that black and Latinx individuals are interviewed for every new and open position.

The coalition has also given the company’s management a deadline of today to make an internal announcement of its commitment as well as timeline of June 19 for a “global media announcement.” The group’s plan, FN has learned, includes a long-term commitment from those involved  and is inclusive of team members from owned-brand Reebok.

Photos Credit: Jenna St. Martin Photo

Source: Footwear News

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Donovan

Donovan is the CEO and Editor-In-Chief of www.dmfashionbook.com. For all general inquiries please email don@dmfashionbook.com Donovan has a BA in Journalism & Media Studies from the prestigious Rutgers University. He's currently studying entertainment and fashion law.