The Adidas human resources head who called employee concerns about institutionalized racism “noise” last year has relinquished her responsibilities with the brand.
Adidas global head of human resources Karen Parkin wrote in a statement on the Adidas website that she is exiting the company after 23 years in order to “pave the way for change.”
Adidas’ supervisory board approved her resignation, effective on Tuesday. CEO Kasper Rorsted will assume responsibilities for global human resources until a replacement is instated.
“I am deeply committed to our goals of creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable company,” Parkin said in her farewell to associates. “While we have made progress in many areas, there is much more work to be done.”
While Parkin insisted that she had always stood against racism at the company and had endeavored to create an equitable landscape for the Adidas team, she admitted that the focus on her had “become a hindrance inhibiting the company from moving forward.”
Adidas and its subsidiary, Reebok, have faced outcry in recent months from employees who feel the companies have failed to hire and advance people of color—despite regularly using the likenesses of Black athletes, musicians and personalities to reach shoppers, and drawing stylistic influences from both the Black community and urban culture.
Parkin’s troubles began last August at an all-employee meeting at Reebok’s Boston headquarters, where she insisted the company did not have an issue with racism, according to the Wall Street Journal. She described the discussion of racism as “noise” that only happens in America, according to Aaron Ture, manager of fashion footwear collaborations at Reebok.
In mid-June, following a bungled response to nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and a painfully drawn-out issuing of promises to enact change within its own walls, Adidas employees asked the company’s supervisory board to investigate Parkin and her previous statements. Staff members requested the creation of an anonymous platform through which to submit complaints about racism, the Journal reported.
In response, Adidas said it strongly rejected the statements made in the letter, and called attention to an email address and hotline that employees could use to file complaints. The company said it had hired a third-party investigator to make sure that its zero-tolerance policy for abuse and retaliation was upheld.
Earlier this month, in a message posted on an internal Adidas forum, Parkin admitted that she “should have chosen a better word” at the August meeting, and apologized for not making clear the company’s “definitive stance against discrimination.”
In the statement announcing Parkins’ departure, Rorsted praised her for playing “a key role in the success and growth of Adidas over the past few years.”
“She elevated and centralized Human Resources into a world-class function, developed and led our People Strategy and launched many successful employee programs,” he wrote, adding, “She has played a significant part in our focus over the past few weeks as to how we move forward as a company to fight racial inequality and build a more diverse Adidas.”
Parkin concluded her memo to employees by calling the present moment “the right time for a new HR leader to take over the function, to seize the opportunity before us and drive forward the pace of change to create a more diverse and inclusive Adidas that we can all be proud of.”