Adidas Global Creative Director Leaving Brand After Controversial Comment

Adidas says global creative director Paul Gaudio is leaving the company. This comes days after a controversial Instagram comment.

Adidas Headquarters Germany

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Adidas Headquarters Germany

After more than 20 years of working there, Adidas global creative director Paul Gaudio is leaving the company on Aug. 31, according to an internal email sent to employees on Saturday. Adidas confirmed his departure in a statement provided to Complex today.

"We are very grateful for his contributions over his long tenure, including the last six years as our global creative director," reads the statement, which is nearly identical to the internal email. "Paul's creative vision, deep understanding of consumer trends, and passion for breaking down the barriers between sports and the arts has played an important role in building our brand."

Adidas would not give a reason for his leaving the company, but the news comes two days after a controversial comment Gaudio left on a Complex Instagram post. Beneath a photo of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of murdering two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Adidas creative director wrote a comment that some interpreted as sympathizing with Rittenhouse.

Protesters in Kenosha were demanding justice for Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old man who police shot at seven times in the back during an arrest this month. Gaudio argued Rittenhouse, who stands accused of killing two protestors with an AR-15-style rifle, was partly a victim.

"He is also a victim here," Gaudio wrote. "He's a kid, who raised him? Who taught him? Who gave him a gun? Not excusing him by any means...but the adults who radicalized him and enabled him should be punished."

The comment drew over 30 replies, many from current and former Adidas employees calling Gaudio out for labeling the accused killer a victim.

"Paul, I find your comment incredibly disappointing and tone deaf," wrote one employee. "This sort of response from anybody is shocking, but coming from a man in your position working within our business is mind blowing."

As Black Lives Matter protesters marched in cities around the world this summer, Black employees at Adidas' North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon, formed their own protest. They alleged that they labored there within a "racist work environment" and called for acknowledgement, apology, and change. Following the protests at Adidas, the brand's global head of human resources stepped down in June.

According to his LinkedIn, Gaudio began his tenure at Adidas in its advanced concepts division in 1992. His resume on the site has him working there on and off up until this year.