Adidas ends massive deal with Kanye West after antisemitism controversy

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Adidas has cut ties with Ye, the musician and fashion designer formerly known as Kanye West, marking the end of a partnership that made the company billions but was soured by the artist’s repeated brazen antisemitic and offensive remarks.

After avoiding commenting for weeks on the status of the partnership, the German-based maker of athletic gear broke its silence on Tuesday, saying in a statement: “After a thorough review, the company has taken the decision to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies. adidas will stop the adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.”

The statement added that Adidas “does not tolerate antisemitism 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.”

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Adidas joins other companies, including JPMorgan Chase and Balenciaga, in ending its relationship with Ye.

The move comes weeks after Adidas executives announced the company was reviewing its business deal with Ye and his multibillion-dollar Yeezy brand following widespread outrage after he wore a “WHITE LIVES MATTER” T-shirt at his Paris Fashion Week show. In the days that followed, Ye made antisemitic comments on his Instagram and Twitter — triggering suspensions — and continued his diatribe on a podcast, where he doubled down on antisemitic tropes. In that same interview he also falsely claimed that George Floyd, a Black man who was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police, died from a fentanyl injection. Floyd’s family is considering legal action against Ye.

Ye has had a significant impact on Adidas, with Yeezy generating an estimated $2 billion a year, close to 10 percent of the company’s annual revenue, Morningstar analyst David Swartz said.

The company said in its statement that terminating the relationship was “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.”

Ye, who has won 24 Grammy Awards and released numerous critically acclaimed platinum records, started working with Adidas in 2013. The partnership eventually made Ye a billionaire and provided Adidas with a new customer base.

Ye began airing his grievances with Adidas this summer, when he falsely accused the company of stealing his designs, calling out chief executive Kasper Rorsted by name in a tweet. He went after the company again in early October, releasing a 30-minute online video of a meeting with Adidas executives, whom he accused of doing “wrong by the company, by the business and by the partnership.” Ye also showed the executives a pornographic film.

In an appearance on the podcast Drink Champs, Ye launched into a 10-minute rant about Jewish people and called out Adidas’s delay in ending the partnership.

“The thing about it being Adidas — I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what? Now what?”

These rants presented a particularly sensitive challenge for Adidas, given the company’s history. Its founder, Adolf Dassler, was a member of the Nazi Party and outfitted the Hitler Youth.

Jewish groups have condemned Ye and called on Adidas to end its partnership with Yeezy.

“At a time of rising antisemitism, when incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2021, such statements are more than damning — they are dangerous,” wrote Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Pressure on Adidas mounted on Oct. 23, after members of a hate group draped signs over a major highway in Los Angeles that said “Honk if you know Kanye is right about the Jews.” Pictures show the men doing the Nazi salute went viral, prompting celebrities to call on Adidas to cut ties with Ye.

“@ADIDAS DROP KANYE WEST,” actor and director America Ferrera posted on Instagram, “this is despicable. do not amplify that man’s influence.”

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