CALLS FOR ACTION: As employees and executives at companies worldwide are calling for more representation for their Black communities, a coalition comprised of Adidas and Reebok employees is demanding further change.
Earlier this week, the athletic conglomerate said it would be investing $20 million in organizations that support the Black community, as well as financing 50 university scholarships for Black employees and hiring more Black employees for new positions. Adidas and Reebok held virtual town hall meetings Wednesday with employees. Prior to that, more than 1,600 employees at Adidas and Reebok had signed a petition calling for change to ensure racial equality, according to Reebok’s Aaron Ture, who continues to be outspoken about the need for further change.
A public apology for previous wrongdoings was among the key requests and is something that employees are still seeking from the Adidas board of directors, he said. A predominantly Portland, Ore.-based coalition is appealing to the Adidas board and its newly formed task force to dig deeper into the recent initiatives, Ture said.
Describing some of the new initiatives as “really wish-washy and not that detailed,” Ture questioned how the company will ensure that 30 percent of all new U.S. positions at Reebok and Adidas will be filled with Black and Latinx people, given the current economic climate. Noting that Adidas has been operating under “restrictive hiring” for a while, he said, “With the current environment with COVID-19 and the financial impact, I question what 30 percent of new hires can really mean. This could mean 30 percent of zero, or 30 percent of 100.”
Supporters of the Adidas and Reebok Black community had drafted a 32-page document that requested, among other things, that Black people account for 31 percent of representation. “Thirty percent of new hires is a very different picture,” he said, adding that having more Black people in senior roles is another priority.
Ture noted that Reebok Brands president Matt O’Toole addressed him personally “as a role model for many in the company and what you did has sparked a fire that was very needed to start a conversation now for doing better” during this week’s virtual town hall. “I was very touched by his words. Nobody expected it — me especially. He said, ‘For all the other Aarons out there, please feel free to share your voice and help move the company forward.’ It was more or less along those lines,” Ture said.
However, he remains critical of the Adidas board. Ture noted that O’Toole and Zion Armstrong, president of Adidas North America, have been strong advocates for change in the past week but that has not been the case with the Adidas board. Ture connected with O’Toole again Thursday during another virtual meeting that he had been invited to participate in. After the fact, Ture declined to comment.
Nike is also working toward more diversity, having vowed to donate $40 million to support the Black community. Former NBA Star Michael Jordan and the Jordan brand have pledged an additional $100 million. Further change is in the works, as indicated by a leaked memo from chief executive officer John Donahoe. As part of Nike’s plans to get its “house in order” in regards to racial equality, the executive said employees will get Juneteenth as a paid company holiday. (Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating June 19, 1865, the day the last enslaved people in Texas were deemed free, despite the Emancipation Proclamation being signed two and half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863.)
Going forward, the company will focus on four areas — representation, professional development, inclusion and belonging and education. Donahoe has tapped two executives — Brandis Russell, vice president of footwear for Converse, and Phil McCartney, vice president and general manager of global footwear for Nike — to lead the D&I Acceleration Taskforce.