Adidas HR chief stands down after describing racism as 'noise'

Adidas HR chief stands down after describing racism as ‘noise’ to ‘pave the way for change’ within the company

  • Karen Parkin, global head of human resources at Adidas, retired from the role 
  • In memo she said spotlight on comments she had made affected the company 
  • Ms Parkin called racism ‘noise’ that only Americans spoke about during meeting

Adidas’ HR chief has retired to ‘pave the way for change’ after facing backlash for calling racism ‘noise’ during a company meeting.

Karen Parkin, the global head of human resources at Adidas AG stood down from her position on Tuesday.

In a memo to staff, seen by The Wall Street Journal, she wrote: ‘I recognize that the focus on me has become a hindrance inhibiting the company from moving forward.’

At a Reebok meeting last year at the Boston headquarters of Reebok, owned by Adidas, Ms Parkin said racism was ‘noise’ that was only discussed in America, and denied the company had any issue with it.

Karen Parkin (pictured), the global head of human resources at Adidas AG stood down from her position on Tuesday

On June 12, Ms Parkin admitted she ‘should have chosen a better word’, but added: ‘It was my responsibility to make clear our definitive stance against discrimination, and this I did not. Should I have offended anyone, I apologize.’

Her resignation came after a group of Black employees called on Adidas´ supervisory board to investigate Ms Parkin and her strategy for addressing racial issues in the workplace. 

Igor Landau, the chairman of the supervisory board said Ms Parkin has always acted in the best interest of the company and its people. 

‘Her decision to leave the company reflects that commitment and her belief that a new HR leader will best drive forward the pace of change that Adidas needs at this time,’ he said.    

At a Reebok meeting last year at the Boston headquarters of Reebok, owned by Adidas, Ms Parkin said racism was ‘noise’ that was only discussed in America, and denied the company had any issue with it (file image) 

Adidas invested $120 million in racial-justice causes in the US and the sportswear giant said a minimum of 30 per cent of all new positions in the US at Adidas and Reebok will be filled with Black and Latino people.

It agreed to finance 50 university scholarships for Black students each year over five years.

On June 10 Adidas posted a statement on its Instagram page that read: ‘First we need to give credit where it’s long overdue: The success of adidas would be nothing without Black athletes, Black artists, Black employees and Black customers. Period.

On June 10 Adidas posted a statement on its Instagram page that read: ‘First we need to give credit where it’s long overdue’

 At the beginning of last month fashion brands including luxury accessory brand Senreve, jewelry brand Bychari, Nisse (pictured) and Livincool all pledged donations to the Black Lives Matter movement

‘Remaining silent is not a neutral position when the people we should be standing with live in fear of police brutality due to systemic racism.

‘With that in mind, it’s our people who we owe this to the most. Our Black co-workers have shown us through their words and actions what leadership looks like, and the changes adidas can make as a brand. They’ve led the response that we will continue to implement together.

‘This isn’t the final step, this is just the first.’ 

On a separate tile the statement continued: ‘For most of you, this message is too little, too late.

Los Angeles-based streetwear brand Livin Cool is donating 100% of profits from their newly released Gradient Collection to to the Color Of Change Organization

Justin Bieber’s clothing line has donated an unspecified amount to Color of Change to support the fight for racial equality

‘We’ve celebrated athletes and artists in the Black community and used their image to define ourselves culturally as a brand, but missed the message in reflecting such little representation within our walls.

‘It’s time to own up to our silence. Black Lives Matter.’

Ms. Parkin, who is British, joined Adidas in 1997 as a sales director in the UK. She rose through several executive roles, including head of its global supply chain and was promoted to its human resources chief in 2014. 

In 2017, she was the first woman named to its executive board since 1993.

In her memo, she said travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic made it difficult for her to commute between her home in Portland, Oregon, and her office in Germany.     

The employees are pressing the company based in Herzogenaurach, Germany, to create an anonymous public channel to submit any problems about racism.

Atlanta-based  shapewear brand Spanx is donating $100,000 to local organizations in their city, plus $100,000 to Black Lives Matter, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Minnesota Freedom Fund

In an effort to foster permanent change in our community, swimwear and apparel brand 437 has launched the 437 Business Fund, where they will be distributing $20,000 in the form of grants between four Black female-founded initiatives


The Business Fund is a long-term commitment to supporting the movement against racism, and towards justice and equality

The demands from Black employees were reported by The Wall Street Journal in mid- June.

‘I am deeply committed to our goals of creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable company,’ Parkin, a board member, said in a statement.

‘While we have made progress in many areas, there is much more work to be done. 

‘However, it has become clear to me that to unify the organization it would be better for me to retire and pave the way for change.’

Igor Landau, chairman of Adidas AG’s supervisory board, said in a statement that Parkin’s decision to leave the company reflects her belief that a new HR leader will ‘best drive forward the pace of change that Adidas needs at this time.’

100% of profits from the new PrettyLittleThing x Saweetie collection are being donated to Black Lives Matter

 Kim Kardashian’s solutionwear line is donating an unspecified amount across multiple organizations

In the wake of protests over police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, for which four former Minneapolis police officers have been charged, Adidas, like many other brands, took to social media in support of racial equality.

But employees at Adidas and other companies like Amazon accused them of hypocrisy, saying their own workforces lacked diversity.

Adidas employs about 59,000 people around the world.

Adidas said its CEO Kasper Rorsted will assume responsibility for global human resources on an interim basis until a successor is appointed.

At the beginning of last month fashion brands including luxury accessory brand Senreve, jewelry brand Bychari, Nisse and Livincool all pledged donations to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Senreve donated $15,000 and matched 100 per cent of the amount any of their team members choose to donate.

They took to Instagram to express their sadness, saying: ‘Our hearts are broken over tragedy and trauma. We strive for SENREVE to be a platform for good.’ 

Nisse, the upscale Turkish ready-to-wear brand, donated 100 per cent of proceeds from TogetherWeAreStronger shirts to the NAACP Organization. 

And Livincool, the Los Angeles-based streetwear brand (a celebrity favorite) donated 100 per cent of profits from their newly released Gradient Collection to to the Color Of Change Organization.

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