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Adidas Employees Claim Racial Discrimination

June 21st, 2019 Victoria Breese

Adidas sponsors many black athletes. Additionally, the athletic brand has had campaigns with several high profile black celebrities, such as Beyonce and Kanye West. However, less than 4.5% of employees at Adidas’ North American headquarters are black. Recently, the few black employees at this headquarters have come forward with discrimination claims. Interviews with over 20 black employees and former employees reveal that the predominantly white corporate leadership is struggling with issues of race in the workplace. Considering that many Adidas customers are black, this revelation about black employees is surprising.

Examples of Discrimination at Adidas

In the company cafeteria at the corporate headquarters, black employees often sit together at lunch. Allegedly, these black employees have been told that this practice made certain white coworkers nervous and could even prevent them from getting promotions. Other black employees said that their input was unvalued in company meetings. Additionally, they say that negative stereotypes surrounding black athletes often arose in meetings. The most serious instance of discrimination occurred when two black employees were referred to by a racist slur, both verbally and over text message.

Adidas Response

Adidas responded humbly to these serious allegations. Karen Parkin, Adidas’ global head of human resources, responded to say that Adidas knew that it had work to do on race issues. She affirmed that Adidas has “zero tolerance” for inappropriate behavior and that she was unaware of the incidents involving racial slurs. Had this incident been reported to HR, she said that the company would have taken steps to address it. “We want to be humble,” Ms. Parkin continued. “We’re not where we need to be in all of the locations around the world. But we’re not afraid to have the conversation, either.” Parkin also mentioned that Portland, where this headquarters is located, is a predominantly white city. She said that Adidas “needs to be more courageous and bold” in attracting more diverse employees to the Portland area.

Marketing Missteps

Some argue that Adidas’ lack of diversity and inclusion has led to several marketing missteps that could have been solved with the inclusion of black employees’ opinions. For example, just this year, Adidas released all-white sneakers to commemorate Black History Month. Following public outcry, Adidas removed these shoes from stores. In 2012, the company had to remove another pair of sneakers featuring shackles after public backlash. Some claim that, if black employees were better included in marketing meetings, their insight into the black community would prevent the brand from making costly mistakes such as those already mentioned.

Seek Legal Assistance

If you have experienced racial discrimination at work, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.