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Adidas says "it's time to own up to our silence" on racism

CBS News Special: "Justice for All"
CBS News Special: "Justice for All" 53:32

The shoe brand widely known for equipping Run-DMC with shell-toe sneakers is pledging to economically boost African-American neighborhoods. Adidas North America said Wednesday it will invest $120 million in black communities over the next four years and fill 30% of its current job openings with someone black or Hispanic. 

In a series of tweets, the Germany-based company said it is "time to own up to our silence" while African-Americans decry racial injustice and police brutality following the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other black Americans. "Black Lives Matter," the company said.

Adidas also recognized the leadership black employees have shown in recent weeks inside its U.S. headquarters in Portland, Oregon, as well as highlighted the importance of black athletes like James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, both of whom have shoe deals with the brand. 

"First, we need to give credit where it's long overdue," Adidas tweeted. "The success of Adidas would be nothing without Black athletes, Black artists, Black employees and Black consumers."

Rapper Kayne West, singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Portland Trailblazers guard Damian Lillard have all inked partnership deals with Adidas in recent years. 

Stepping up its hiring of minorities and investing in black communities was part of a larger list of promises Adidas made Wednesday. The company also said it will fund 50 education scholarships for black students annually and reserve fully half of its jobs for the disabled, veterans and people from the LGBTQ community in an effort to increase diversity. 

Adidas did not detail which communities will receive funds or how many jobs the company currently needs to fill. 

The moves announced Wednesday come after some Adidas employees reportedly accused the company of marginalizing black workers. Trade publication Footwear News reported that black workers recently held a sit-out and created a coalition that pushed for changes within the company, including hiring more people of color. 

Black Lives Matter protests extend into America's suburbs and towns 09:41

Adidas does not publicly disclose the racial breakdown of its workforce. But of the roughly 1,700 employees at its U.S. headquarters, less than 5% identified as black, according to internal employment figures obtained in 2019 by The New York Times. 

Adidas didn't respond to requests for comment. On Twitter, the company signaled that it must do better in increasing the diversity of its workers.

"For most of you, this message is too little, too late," Adidas tweeted. "We've celebrated athletes and artists in the Black community and used their image to define ourselves culturally as a brand, but missed the message in reflecting such little representation within our walls."

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