Black Superstars Pitch Adidas Shoes. Its Black Workers Say They’re Sidelined.
n the United States, Adidas has built much of its name — and sales — through its association with black superstars. In the 1980s, the seminal hip-hop group Run-DMC gave the company’s sneakers and apparel cultural cachet through its song “My Adidas.” Popular black athletes and entertainers like James Harden, Candace Parker and Kanye West endorse its products.
In April, Adidas announced a new partnership with Beyoncé Knowles. Ms. Knowles posted a photo on Instagram that showed her reclining on a pile of Adidas sneakers and wearing a red Adidas bodysuit. The image was liked more than seven million times.
Black employees at the company’s North American headquarters in Portland, Ore., however, describe a workplace culture that contradicts the brand’s image. Interviews with more than 20 current or former Adidas employees show the company’s predominantly white leadership struggling with issues of race and discrimination. On the campus, known as Adidas Village, the employees say, race is a constant issue, leaving the relatively few black employees often feeling marginalized and sometimes discriminated against. (read more)