Adidas says the Berlin Fashion Week launch and co-CEO announcements are false

Pedestrians walk past a large Adidas logo inside the German multinational sportswear store.

Miguel Candela | SOUP Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

Several press releases allegedly sent from adidas about a Berlin Fashion Week launch, its treatment of overseas workers and other issues related to its business structure were false, the company said.

“We are not commenting on these fake emails/communications,” Claudia Lange, the retailer’s vice president of external communications, said in an email to CNBC.

A fake statement said Vay Ya Nak Phoan, who was described as a former Cambodian factory worker and union leader, had been appointed co-CEO to ensure ethical compliance in manufacturing.

The Yes Men, an activist group that has a history of creating fakes to draw attention to how corporations respond to social issues, confirmed to CNBC that it was behind the releases along with other groups. The groups hope Adidas will sign the Pay Your Workers labor agreement, which defends garment workers’ pay and the right to organize.

“After several scandals, it seems like it would be a big thing for them to turn over a new leaf,” said a member of The Yes Men identified as Mike Bonanno.

Two of the fake press releases claimed Adidas was releasing new clothing called REALITYWEAR by celebrities Pharrell Williams, Bad Bunny and Philllllthy. The launch of a hoax heralded the debut of Berlin Fashion Week in January. 16 claimed it was part of a push for a renewed focus on workers’ rights and material sourcing.

Adidas explains its position on workers’ rights on a dedicated “Workplace Rules” page, outlining its code of conduct for workers’ health, safety, pay and “responsible sourcing.”

The Guardian first reported that The Yes Men were behind the campaign.

The Yes Men’s multi-layered campaign also referenced the now-defunct collaboration with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West who has come under fire in recent months for anti-Semitic remarks, and included a “response” from the company, providing answers to the points raised in the first releases.

– CNBC’s Gabrielle Fonrouge contributed reporting

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