Adidas has ended its business relationship with Kanye West — now known as Ye — after he made a series of public white supremacist and anti-Semitic statements.
The company first partnered with the artist in 2013, going on to build a wildly successful sneaker line that in many ways defined the decade in sneaker culture, Yeezy. In a statement published on Tuesday — weeks after Ye’s problematic remarks — the company said it was putting an end to the Adidas-Yeezy business. The partnership had reportedly brought in billions for Adidas and accounted for a substantial portion of its business, a reason some speculate as to why the company took so long to take action or make any sort of public comment on the matter.
“Adidas does not tolerate anti-Semitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness,” the company said via a statement.
The end of the partnership involves stopping production of Yeezy-branded products and an end of all payments to Ye and his companies. Adidas will share more information about this decision during its Q3 earnings announcement on Nov. 9.
By making this move, Adidas joins a growing list of people, organizations and companies severing ties with Ye over his most recent outbursts. Among personal friends, major companies like Balenciaga, Gap and Vogue have also ended business relationships or distanced themselves from the artist.
Read on for more context and background on the matter.
After opening the Balenciaga show during Paris Fashion Week, Ye — who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has had a public struggle with the mental disorder — held a surprise runway presentation of this own for Yeezy. In it, he featured “white lives matter” T-shirts and neo-conservative talk show host Candace Owens.
When critics spoke up about the problematic nature of the presentation, Ye went on a social media spree, targeting one of his critics, Vogue‘s Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, with personal attacks. Vogue subsequently issued a statement in support of Karefa-Johnson, following a private meeting between the stylist and Ye.
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After Paris Fashion Week ended, Ye took to Instagram and Twitter to post more tirades, including blatantly violent and anti-Semitic sentiments that have since inspired hate group activity.
Before the most recent wave of offensive remarks, Ye had also become involved in a public back-and-forth with Gap, Inc., which had been working with Yeezy as part of a long-term deal. That partnership ended shortly thereafter.
Following his anti-Semitic tirades (and the announcement that he would buy the conservative social media platform Parler), Balenciaga, CAA and JP Morgan, among others, publicly distanced themselves from Ye. The Adidas partnership, though, might be the most consequential.
“This is expected to have a short-term negative impact of up to €250 million on the company’s net income in 2022 given the high seasonality of the fourth quarter,” Adidas wrote in its statement announcing the decision.
For a deal valued at multiple billions of dollars, it’s possible the company will face heavier financial deficits than stated in the long run.
The extended time taken to make the decision — or make any other sort of statement condemning Ye’s remarks — prompted outrage from within the company and across social media. Consumers posted photos of their Adidas items in the trash, tagging the brand in Instagram and Twitter posts calling them out for their silence. Other critics pointed out the company’s dark anti-Semitic history, which included making uniforms for Hitler youth.
“We have dropped athletes for using steroids and being difficult to work with but are unwilling to denounce hate speech, the perpetuation of dangerous stereotypes and blatant racism by one of our top brand partners,” Adidas employee Sarah Camhi wrote in a LinkedIn post screenshot by Complex.
For some, the steps Adidas ultimately took to sever ties with Ye may be too little, too late.