Company News

Adidas human resources head steps down after race row

BERLIN (Reuters) - The head of human resources at Adidas ADSGn.DE has stepped down after a group of employees called for an investigation over her handling of racism at the company, which she had described last year as "noise" only discussed in America.

FILE PHOTO: The Adidas logo is pictured during celebrations for German sports apparel maker Adidas' 70th anniversary at the company's headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

The German sportswear company said Karen Parkin was leaving Adidas after 23 years in mutual agreement with the supervisory board, effective June 30. Chief Executive Kasper Rorsted is taking over her role on an interim basis.

“It has become clear to me that to unify the organisation it would be better for me to retire and pave the way for change,” Parkin, 55, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Adidas rebuffed criticism from a group of employees that asked the supervisory board to investigate Parkin’s approach to racial issues, noting that Parkin had apologised and was working on the diversity issue.

Parkin admitted then that she had not made clear the company’s stance against discrimination at a meeting at the Reebok brand in Boston last year when she made a comment about concern about racism being “noise.”

Parkin, who holds joint British and U.S. citizenship, was appointed to the Adidas executive board in 2017, the first woman to join the company’s top leadership since 1993. Her departure leaves five white men at the helm of the German company.

Adidas has admitted that it has not given enough credit in the past to the many prominent Black athletes and celebrities - like James Harden and Kanye West - as well as Black employees and consumers who have helped make it successful.

Adidas said on Tuesday that Rorsted will sponsor a new global committee to drive inclusion and equality.

Adidas has made a series of commitments this month, including a target that Black and Latino people will fill at least 30% of all new U.S. jobs, with a target for them to make up 12% of U.S. leadership positions by 2025.

Adidas said it would develop U.S. anti-discrimination and harassment standards to be governed by a third-party investigator, another demand of the staff calling for a probe of Parkin.

Companies around the world have pledged take action to fight racism and improve diversity amid worldwide protests over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; editing by Jane Merriman and Leslie Adler