Amidst protests across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Adidas was quick to respond, issuing a statement on its Instagram account as well as a rare stance of solidarity with competitor Nike on Twitter. Despite these public-facing messages, a number of Adidas employees are reportedly at odds with the brand over what some are calling an empty sentiment.
According to Footwear News, Adidas Originals Assistant Apparel Director Julia Bond sent a note to the brand's North American leadership this week condemning the brand's "consistent complacency" regarding the matters at hand. "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," Bond reportedly wrote. "I can no longer stand for Adidas’ consistent complacency in taking active steps against a racist work environment. This is not business as usual."
Footwear News spoke with Bond, who says she chose not to issue her message anonymously in hopes of it having a greater impact across the company. "Adidas has shown that there is a high tolerance for racism…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's note reportedly reads.
In terms of action, Bond says she and other co-workers will protest beginning tomorrow with plans to continue each day until the Three Stripes issues a formal apology "for the racism and discrimination that they have openly enabled and perpetuated."
While Bond's messaging comes in response to Adidas' recent statements, this isn't the first time the brand has been under the microscope for racial insensitivities. In 2018, an anonymous letter described the workplace as "a culture that embodies the opposite of inclusivity, rooted in personal relationships, racial bias, and not necessarily on experience or qualifications." The following year, the New York Times published a report that included details about racially charged—and ultimately scrapped—campaigns surrounding brand endorsees James Harden and Damian Lillard.
"Two black employees said they had been referred to with a common racist slur by white co-workers, one verbally and one in a text message seen by The Times," read the 2019 report. "In both instances, the people believed the slur was intended as a joke, which they felt only highlighted the company’s skewed perspective on race."
When reached for a statement, Adidas declined to comment.
UPDATE (06/05): Following yesterday's reports that Adidas employees will begin protesting today against their "racist work environments," the Three Stripes has issued a statement regarding the matter. "Adidas has always been and will always be against discrimination in all forms and stands against racism," the brand tells Sole Collector. "We are deeply saddened by what we see happening to our Black community in America. Racism is an issue that exists not only in the U.S. but in all countries. We all want to see justice, action, peace, and most importantly, progress. As a global sports company, Adidas is committed to creating change."
"Throughout the week we have communicated with our employees to listen and understand and respect the range of emotions we are all going through and have provided support and resources. All leaders in North America and in our Global HQ attended educational sessions to understand and learn how to lead through this crisis. Our online donation platform, DEED, provides the opportunity for 200% matching of employee donations to support organizations that are working on the frontlines of anti-racism and actively working to support our Black communities."
"We’re listening. We recognize that we have not done enough, and we are dedicated to doing more. We are close to finalizing our commitments to ensure our people, most importantly our Black employees, are heard, supported and involved in solutions. We are working very closely with our employee resource group Progressive Soles and a coalition of Black leaders, and we are united in making progress. Together we’re establishing quantifiable goals focused on immediate action and long-term impact, internally and externally. We will hold ourselves accountable for change. We firmly believe that together is the only way to move forward."
Adidas will be sharing its commitments with its employees first before a public statement is made next week.