Among the core attributes of the Adidas brand is that it is one that can help people perform faster. Ironically, the same thing cannot be said for its corporate response to its association with a heinous anti-Semite. Ye, I’m talking about you-know-who.
At a time when rival sportswear marketer Nike consistently demonstrates its speed and forethought when dealing with matters of social justice, Adidas proved it's not exactly setting any records when it comes to getting off the anti-Semitic block.
“Adidas was very slow,” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson quipped on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” this morning, adding: “This has been in the air for a few weeks now and if you are a huge global sportswear company that was founded a long, long time ago by actual Nazis, you really need to have a faster trigger on anti-Semitism.”
As an American Jew who has been watching the rising tide of anti-Semitism from the right -- from the “very fine people” marching with Tiki torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville in 2017 to the rise in violent attacks on Jews to increases in various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (space lasers, anyone?) -- I’ve also been keeping an eye on responses to it by American institutions: the government, the criminal justice system, and yes, even corporate America.
I have to say I have been a little surprised by the lack of impetus in some cases. But nothing like the slowness of Adidas’ response, severing its ties with Kanye West 16 days after he used his Twitter megaphone to tweet he was going “Death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”
It was ironically slower than it took for modern-day American Nazis to hang a banner over a Los Angeles freeway proclaiming, “Kanye is right.”
We now live at the speed of social amplification, when words not only matter, but can hurt and even kill people. And sometimes, not using words – you know, remaining silent – in the face of hate speech, may be just as responsible. Especially when you’re a multibillion dollar sportswear brand providing corporate legitimacy to it.
Contrast Adidas’ response time to Nike’s response to George Floyd’s murder. Within days of the murder and the circulation of videos documenting it, Nike had a “For once, don’t do it” campaign up and running.
I’d like to suggest two things.
In this era of rapid-fire digital media amplification, there is now a half-life to brand response time.
Any brand that isn’t sure of how long to take, do what Nike recommends: “Don’t sit back and remain silent.”