Updated Jan. 16, 7:10 p.m.
Adidas was hit by a hoax on Monday when an unknown party — believed to be an activist group called The Yes Men — sent out a long press release saying the company had named a co-chief executive officer to ensure more ethical manufacturing processes.
But it wasn’t true.
Several hours later, a second release was sent, saying the first one was a hoax.
The initial release, on what appeared to be Adidas letterhead and allegedly sent from its headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, said the company had named Vay Ya Nak Phoan, a former Cambodian garment worker and trade union leader, as co-CEO to serve alongside Bjørn Gulden, who took over the top slot on Jan. 1.
It also said Gulden and Phoan on Monday had signed the Pay Your Workers agreement, which was described as a “binding commitment to fair labor practices, wages and compensation in the supply chain.” The agreement, which was allegedly made with Adidas’ trade unions and labor rights organizations, was said to immediately pay 11.2 million euros in wages to Cambodian workers whose salaries were withheld by suppliers during the pandemic, rehire all workers, union members and union leaders who were fired from both Trax Apparel in Cambodia and the Pou Chen factory in Myanmar and provide them with full back pay.
The fake release was reportedly written by The Yes Men, a culture activist site, and sent from a bogus Adidas account. The activists also showed a collection of “Realitywear” from Adidas, allegedly created by Cambodian workers who wore the same clothes for six months, at Berlin Fashion Week, causing further confusion.
A spokesperson for Adidas in the U.S. said the company had no further comment on who had perpetrated the fraud, only stressing that both releases were fake. He also said to refer to the company’s stance on working conditions in its supply chain.