adidas storefront
photo: Adidas
Adidas has pushed an image that's all about diversity and inclusion since at least the '80s, but employees at its headquarters are calling the brand's bluff. According to a new report by The New York Times, black employees are pulling the curtains back on the racialized discrimination they say the brand practices at its headquarters. This exposé comes shortly after the brand announced a major partnership with Beyoncé and her Ivy Park brand. Adidas is also the home of Kanye West's Yeezy sneaker brand, which was originally a Nike partnership.

Black employees are allegedly discouraged from sitting together during lunch at the headquarters, which is also called the Adidas Village.

"Adidas employees who spoke to The Times said that in the company cafeteria, black employees often sit together," the outlet reported. "Some said they had been told that this made some of their white colleagues nervous and could hurt their chances of getting promotions or being put on important marketing campaigns if it appeared that they were not trying to fit the Adidas mold."

Let's go ahead and point out the racism and stereotyping that goes into telling black people that they make white people "nervous" just by sitting together. 

Racial slurs have also allegedly been thrown around in the Adidas office.

photo: FOX/BET

"Two black employees said they had been referred to with a common racist slur by white coworkers, one verbally and one in a text message seen by The Times," the report reveals. "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." 

For the record, the N-word thrown around by non-black people is not and will never be a joke. It's a word you cannot have. It just is what it is and that's that on that. The fact that this has even happened in the Adidas office is way too much. The N-word? Is that where you are with your celebration and inclusion of blackness, Adidas?

Let's also note how unprofessional it is to throw around racial slurs — no matter what race they are said against — in the office at all. 

The New York Times also noted the severe lack of diversity in the Adidas offices. More than half of the company's employees are white.

"Fewer than 75 of the nearly 1,700 Adidas employees in Portland identify as black, according to the internal employment figures from last summer. Nearly 78 percent of the employees are white," the newspaper wrote. The newspaper also asserted that the Adidas spokesperson didn't deny these stats during an interview. She did prefer to note that 55 percent of the company’s total employee base in the United States are people of color. 

In other words, Adidas will hire black folks as long as not too many of them work at the headquarters where the majority of the top-tier decision-making positions are. We can sell the shoes at a register and maybe even run a store as general manager, but be a decision maker? Only a select few can sit with Adidas, and they better not sit together and make white folks nervous.

Got it.

Trolls: "bUt KanYe wEsT hAs YEEZY oVer tHerE."

Therein lies the problem. Adidas having these types of severe discrimination problems against black people at its headquarters is already disgusting. To know that the brand still doesn't mind using powerful black people and their fan bases to sell sneakers while it treats its black employees as they described in the New York Times report is just heinous. As the newspaper noted, Kanye West helped revive the Adidas brand in the same way that Rihanna did Puma. 

Things look even worse when you consider that Kanye West snatched his Yeezy brand away from Nike because they wouldn't allow him the creative control he deserved. He parted ways and spent the better part of 2014 ranting about how the fashion industry was racist against black creatives. I'm interested in what his response will be to these accusations, although I do not expect much. 

This news also hits only months after Beyoncé purchased Topshop's stake in her Ivy Park athleisure brand and announced a relaunch with Adidas.

Beyoncé launched Ivy Park with Topshop in 2016, but the partnership only lasted two years, and the pop icon had been in talks to sever ties with the retailer a full year ahead of that. "After discussions of almost a year, [Beyoncé's] Parkwood has acquired 100% of the Ivy Park brand," Ivy Park said in a statement. "Topshop/Arcadia will fulfill the existing orders.” This means one year into this union, Beyoncé wanted out.

Word on the retail streets is that it had a ton to do with alleged Topshop financial issues plus numerous sexual assault and racism allegations made against the retailer.

Weeks after Beyoncé announced her Ivy Park relaunch with Adidas, Topshop also revealed that it would close all US stores.

"Against a backdrop of challenging retail headwinds, changing consumer habits and ever-increasing online competition, we have seriously considered all possible strategic options to return the Group to a stable financial platform," Arcadia CEO Ian Grabiner said in a statement. "This has been a tough but necessary decision for the business." Arcadia is the company that owns Topshop. It also filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection during the same week as the closing announcement.


Yet it seems Beyoncé may have hopped from one frying pan into another by taking Ivy Park to the Adidas team. 

It has to suck to move your brand from one problematic partnership with a company that's been accused of racism to another brand facing similar accusations. I'm wondering if the queen will make a statement or, more brand-appropriate, another move. Only time will tell, but what we're 100% sure about is that Beyoncé will get these nasty Adidas headlines across her Parkwood desk. What happens after that is up in the air.

The responses from people in partnerships with Adidas will be especially interesting as the company's Human Resources Director Karen Parken admitted that Adidas needs some help with its diversity practices. 

"Karen Parkin, the global head of human resources for Adidas, said in an interview that the company knew that it had work to do on the issue of race," reported the New York Times.

“We want to be humble,” Ms. Parkin told the newspaper. “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.”

Bottom line, the allegations are sickening, and Adidas has a lot more explaining to do than this. For now, the industry has all eyes on the brand and the black celebrities from its most notable partnerships.