Adidas rejects allegations of workplace racism

Adidas rejects allegations of workplace racism
An Adidas store in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA
German sportswear maker Adidas on Wednesday rejected claims by employees that it was not doing enough to combat racism, after the "Black Lives Matter" protests revived debate about a lack of diversity in the firm.

“We strongly reject all statements” made in a letter sent by 83 employees to the supervisory board, an Adidas spokesman told AFP.

The workers had called for an investigation into the human resources department and the setting-up of an anonymous forum to discuss discrimination, Adidas confirmed to AFP after the demands were first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

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“Adidas and Reebok have always been and will always be against discrimination in all forms,” the company said, adding that “black employees have led the response” and that a “third party investigator” would monitor its policy.

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In the letter and in social media posts, employees targeted human resources chief Karen Parkin's description of racism at Adidas as “noise” that was only discussed in America at an all-hands meeting of the group's subsidiary Reebok last year.

“I should have chosen a better word,” Parkin said in a response posted to the company intranet on June 12th. “Should I have offended anyone, I apologise”.

Adidas has set up a telephone hotline for its roughly 60,000 employees worldwide — 10,000 of them in the US — to report problems within the company.

“We are now concentrating our efforts on making progress and creating real change immediately,” the Bavarian group said Wednesday.

On June 10th, Adidas had already announced that 30 percent of new hires would be people from black or Latino backgrounds.

And it vowed to spend $20 million over four years on programmes to support black communities in the US.

Adidas' efforts to calm internal racism allegations follow weeks of worldwide anti-racist demonstrations in the wake of the death on May 25th of George Floyd at the hands of a white policeman in Minneapolis.

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