Adidas HR chief and board member announces resignation after employees called for an investigation

Samantha Lee/Business Insider
  • Karen Parkin, an Adidas executive board member based in Germany responsible for global human resources, is resigning.
  • The HR leader announced her decision on Tuesday, following a movement of some employees calling for an investigation into her ability to perform her job, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
  • “While I would very much like to lead this critical transformation effort, after much reflection and listening to the feedback I’ve received, I have come to accept that I am not the right person to lead that change,” Parkin wrote in an email to employees, which was viewed by Business Insider.
  • In a public statement on its website, Adidas said the company’s CEO Kasper Rorsted will assume Parkin’s responsibilities on an “interim basis until a successor is appointed.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Karen Parkin, an Adidas executive board member at the centre of the company’s recent conversations regarding diversity and racism, announced Tuesday that she will be departing the company.

Parkin, a board member responsible for global human resources based in Germany who had been with the company for 23 years, has recently come under fire for her handling of the company’s alleged problems of “systemic racism.”

In its public release, Adidas said the company’s CEO Kasper Rorsted will assume Parkin’s responsibilities on an “interim basis until a successor is appointed.” Parkin originally joined Adidas in 1997 as a sales director in the UK.

Parkin’s resignation, which is effective June 30, was announced in an email to all employees and in a release on Adidas’ website.

As social justice movements abound in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Adidas employees have been speaking up and protesting since June 5. Employees have been calling out what they describe as an uncomfortable and problematic environment for people of colour at the athletic-wear giant and a lacklustre response to the current situation in the US.

Two current Adidas employees described Parkin using the word “noise” to describe and dismiss the problem of racism in the US during a company-wide meeting on August 19, 2019. Adidas has not confirmed Parkin’s original wording in this meeting. Some employees called for an investigation into Parkin’s ability to perform her job, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Earlier in June, Parkin took to Adidas’ internal employee platform on Yammer to address this meeting.

“As the Executive Board Member responsible for HR, it was my responsibility to make clear our definitive stance against discrimination, and this I did not,” Parkin wrote in a post viewed by Business Insider. “Should I have offended anyone, I apologise.”

In her email to employees and in Adidas’ public release announcing her departure, Parkin said she hopes her decision to retire will help a new leader create a more “diverse and inclusive Adidas that we can all be proud of.”

“While I would very much like to lead this critical transformation effort, after much reflection and listening to the feedback I’ve received, I have come to accept that I am not the right person to lead that change,” Parkin wrote in her email. “While I have always stood 100% against racism and discrimination and worked to create a more equitable environment, I recognise that the focus on me has become a hindrance inhibiting the company from moving forward.”


If you’re an Adidas or other athletic-wear employee with a story to share, email [email protected], or contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 376-6018 using a nonwork phone.

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