Popular Adidas protests against racial inequalities result in big concessions from the company
A remarkable campaign of protests by Adidas employees against alleged racial inequalities within the company led to another victory for workers. On Tuesday, the company confirmed that Karen Parkin, its global human resources manager, was leaving the company.
Parkin’s departure comes three weeks after the world’s second-largest sneaker company pledged millions of dollars to fight “fair and equitable hiring at Adidas.” The program “will remove hiring bias, increase representation and create more accountability and oversight,” Adidas said.
“I have decided to retire and lead the way for change,” Ms. Parkin wrote in a note to staff, reported by The Wall Street Journal. She wrote that she had always opposed racism, but “I recognize that attention to me has become a barrier preventing the company from moving forward.”
Businesses across all industries face the Black Lives Matter movement, which has grown to be the largest and most important civil rights movement since the late 1960s. Racial equity is a particularly sensitive issue for Adidas and its more great rival, Nike. Both companies rely on black athletes, musicians and performers to wear and promote their products.
Complaints from Adidas employees about the lack of equal opportunity first surfaced in the fall of 2018. The group sent a letter to management complaining of harassment, racism and inequality . They accused Adidas of fostering “a culture that embodies the opposite of inclusiveness, rooted in personal relationships, racial bias and not necessarily on experience or qualifications.”
Adidas’ response was indifferent. According to several articles in the mainstream press and industry, Parkin described the complaints as “noise”. Speaking at a company meeting in Boston, Parkin reportedly added that no one was complaining except employees in North America.
As the number of deadly encounters between black men and police increased, protests by Adidas have also escalated. This spring and summer, employees began organizing noon-hour protests.
Amid a deep recession and record unemployment due to the coronavirus, it was a courageous decision to call their own employer. But they clung to it. Their number has grown to around 200.
Julia Bond, one of the leaders of the movement, told The Oregonian / OregonLive earlier this month that she wanted an apology from her employer.
“It’s frustrating to see images of black women around the brand, wearing the clothes and wearing the shoes but there’s no one there who looks like me,” designing the products, said Bond, 25. She said she was the only black garment for women. designer working at Adidas headquarters in Portland.
“I see the potential this brand has to do the right thing and be a leader,” Bond said. “I see the potential to do a really good job, but it starts with the adidas apology.”
On June 10, Adidas backtracked. In a long and ruthless public mea culpa, the company said employees were correct in claiming that Adidas had not done enough to hire and promote people of color.
“For most of you, this post is too small, too late,” Adidas said in a long series of tweets. “We celebrated athletes and artists from the black community and used their image to culturally define us as a brand, but we missed the message by reflecting so little representation within our walls…
“” First, we must pay homage to what is due: Adidas’ success would be nothing without black athletes, black artists, black employees and black consumers. Period.”
In the same Twitter feed, Adidas shouted at Portland workers who took the huge risk of picking up their own employer.
“Our black colleagues have shown us through their words and actions what leadership looks like and the changes adidas can make. They have led the response that we will continue to implement together.
“This is not the last step; this is only the first.
Adidas has said it will spend $ 120 million over the next four years on a range of initiatives to increase opportunities for people of color. It will also fund 50 scholarships each year for black students at its partner schools.
Adidas officials did not respond to phone calls or emails. The company announced Parkin’s departure in an announcement posted on Tuesday. Igor Landau, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Adidas AG, thanked Parkin for his 23 years of service. “His decision to leave the company reflects this commitment and his belief that a new HR manager will be best able to accelerate the pace of change that adidas needs right now,” said Landau.