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Adidas emailed store employees about coronavirus: ‘Closing is easy, staying open requires courage’

Daniel Roberts

This story was updated on March 17 at 1:51pm EST.

In the past few days, a long list of retail chains have closed their U.S. store locations out of precaution amid the rapid spread of coronavirus.

Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, Lululemon, Gap, REI, Patagonia, Columbia Sportswear, Urban Outfitters, and Abercrombie are just some of the apparel names that have closed all their U.S. stores for the time being.

Adidas (ADDYY) at first attempted to go a different way from its peers.

In an email to Adidas and Reebok retail employees on Monday morning, obtained by Yahoo Finance, Adidas Group CEO Kasper Rorsted wrote that the company would not yet be shuttering its U.S. stores because of coronavirus.

“We have to keep the company going and open for business to ensure that we can pay our monthly bills and salaries to everyone,” Rorsted wrote. “Closing down is easy, staying open in a healthy environment requires courage, persistence and focus."

Rorsted went on to write, “For all coronavirus-related decisions we will—as a general principle—follow local regulations as different regions/countries/markets are impacted at a different level at any point in time. In all regions and countries where legislation allows, we expect the leadership teams to be working from our offices on a daily basis... Where work is conducted from home, we ask for your utmost focus and dedication to do your job as good as possible every day.”

It was a decision the company reversed 24 hours later, when a spokesperson told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday that the company would in fact close all of its Adidas and Reebok retail stores in the U.S., Canada, and Europe from March 17 through March 29.

Kasper Rorsted, chairman of German sporting goods maker Adidas, speaks during his company's annual press conference on March 13, 2019 in Herzogenaurach, Germany. (DANIEL KARMANN/DPA/AFP via Getty Images)

One Twitter user had predicted on Monday, “Legitimately going to keep checking my watch to see how quickly this decision will be reversed.” Indeed, the company reversed the decision a day later.

A handful of Adidas retail employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Yahoo Finance on Monday they were not pleased with the email, especially considering that Adidas’s sports apparel peers Nike and Under Armour already shut down all U.S. stores and will continue to pay retail employees while stores are closed.

“It’s ridiculous and I’m outraged,” said a store employee in New York City. “Seeing Nike lead the way in the retail closings and seeing a lot of other companies follow suit, it’s extremely frustrating. They’re waiting for someone to force them to close instead of being proactive.”

On the other hand, some employees applauded the Rorsted email, like Drew C., a store employee in Chicago, who tweeted: “I am THRILLED we are not closing. So many other people are losing their jobs right now but Adidas is giving us the opportunity to earn our money and provide for families.”

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance who focuses on sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

Read more from Yahoo Finance about coronavirus and sports:

Under Armour closes all U.S. stores amid coronavirus

Nike is closing all its U.S. stores in response to coronavirus

Coronavirus hits sports: March Madness canceled; NBA, MLS, NHL seasons suspended

Coronavirus is stoking fears of Tokyo Olympics cancellation

Nike warns coronavirus will have ‘material impact’ on its China business

HSBC downgrades Nike on coronavirus fears

Under Armour warns of coronavirus impact in China, analyst says it has ‘peaked’ in America