Adidas 'truly sorry' about Montreal store manager's comments on French language

Adidas has broken its silence and apologized after a manager's comments about the French language at a downtown Montreal store launch sparked a linguistic spat and drew the ire of Quebec politicians earlier this week.

The manager told a crowd he would say a few words in French to 'accommodate' francophone media

Adidas issued an apology on Friday, saying the comments made by an Adidas employee in downtown Montreal were offensive. (Radio-Canada)

Adidas has apologized for a manager's comments about the French language at a downtown Montreal store launch earlier this week, which sparked a linguistic spat and calls to boycott the brand.

"We are truly sorry that recent comments made by an Adidas employee were offensive," the company wrote Friday in a brief statement. "This was not intentional at all."

The apology comes a few days after the Journal de Montréal reported that manager Alexandre Des Roches told the audience at an Adidas launch event Wednesday that he would begin his speech with a few words in French "to accommodate the City of Montreal and francophone media."

The rest of the event on Ste-Catherine Street reportedly took place in English.

The incident immediately prompted a wave of backlash, with well-known Quebec personalities demanding a boycott of the activewear brand.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard also criticized the manager's statements, saying that they were unacceptable and regrettable in a French-speaking province.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said Des Roches had showed a blatant lack of sensitivity and respect.

Insufficient apology

The statement from Adidas comes after the province's minister for the protection and promotion of the French language criticized the company for staying silent after the controversy first surfaced.

Marie Montpetit penned a letter to the head of the company's Canada division, in which she called for Adidas to "send a clear message" about the role of French in the workplace.

The apology doesn't go far enough, she said.

"We're waiting on Adidas to introduce measures and practices to fix the situation," Montpetit said Saturday.

Marie Montpetit, the Quebec minister for the protection and promotion of the French language, denounced the situation at Adidas in downtown Montreal. (Francis Vachon/The Canadian Pres)

Michel Leblanc, the president of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, also denounced Adidas' slow response.

"The business should have quickly declared its sensitivity to the French language in Montreal, show that they understand the situation, say that the employee committed a faux pas and that it will never happen again," he said.

'It shows us that we have to be more vigilant'

The situation that unfolded in Montreal was unfortunate and deplorable but it doesn't happen often, said Montpetit.

"It shows us that the we have to be more vigilant with our businesses in Montreal," Montpetit told Radio-Canada, referring to the province's language laws, which enshrines customers' right to be served in French.

Adidas, for its part, said it is "committed to respecting the culture, customs and languages of the cities and countries in which we reside." It added the company will not comment further on the situation.

With files from the Canadian Press and Radio-Canada