By Lennox Kalifungwa
Fighting anti-Semitism may be almost as brand damaging as engaging in it, Adidas is learning now.
Adidas dumped Kanye West — shaving some $1.5 billion of West’s net worth according to Forbes— in response to West’s tweets that were widely seen as anti-Semitic. Now the athletic shoemaker is fighting for its reputation online as Kanye’s fans point out Adidas’s links to the Nazis in the 1930s.
Adidas’ historic ties to the Nazis is well-documented, but it is an akward time for the brand to be reminded of its poisinious past when it is trying to take a strong public stand against the anti-Semitic remarks of its former spokesperson. Twitter users are clearing enjoying Adidas’ discomfort.
Adolf “Adi” and Rudolf Dasler, two brothers in Bavaria, founded a sports-shoe company that was the predecesor to both Adidas and Puma, in 1924. Both brothers joined the Nazi Party in 1933, the year Hitler became chancellor. During World War II, their shoe factory was used to make German anti-tank weapons, according Der Spiegel.
After World War II, the two brothers parted, with Adolf founding Adidas (an amalgamation of there first names) and Rudolf starting Puma, a rival sneaker brand. The two brothers built their factories on opposing banks of Regnitz River which divides Herzogenaurach, a small Bavarian city that was home to more than 100 shoe-makers before Hitler ignited history’s deadliest war.
At first, social media users suspected that Adidas was moving slowly to dump west due to its history. Many tweeted online that the brand’s historic ties to Nazi figures meant it was re-acting slowly to Kanye West’s anti-Semitic comments. Hollywood actor Michael Rapaport tweeted an article about Adidas’s ties to the Nazis before the brand moved to break ties with West.
Next, as soon as Adidas seperated from West, Kanye fans piled in to question the moral legitimacy of Adidas — citing the same history.
“If Adidas cuts ties with Kanye they might as well change their name, that company was not only founded by a Nazi but the guys name was ‘Adolf’” too. Spare me the woke hysteria,” wrote one Twitter user with the handle “King Micheal X.”
To be sure, Adi Dasler was no racist. He visited America’s first major African-American track star Jesse Owens in the Olympic village in Berlin. Dasler persuaded Owens to wear his shoes during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Owens went on to win four Gold Olympic medals — a fact Adidas proudly highlights on their website. It is often cited as the first sponsorship deal for a male African American athlete.
Adidas isn’t the only brand to move away from Kanye West, who now calls himself “Ye”. Gap and Foot Locker followed Adidas. The film and television studio MRC announced it will halt plans to distribute a Kanye West-themed documentary. Ye’s former talent agency, the powerhouse CAA, also dumped him.
Major sports stars associted with Donda Sports, an agency founded by Ye, have also distance themselves from Ye. “I have always, and will always, continue to stand strongly against any anti-Semitism, hate speech, misrepresentation, and oppressive rhetoric of any kind,” Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said.
“In light of that, after sharing in conversations, I now recognize there are times when my voice and my position can’t coexist in spaces that don’t correspond with my stance or my values. And, for that reason, I am terminating my association with Donda Sports,” said Brown.
In addition, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said Ye’s remarks “are the exact opposite of how we choose to live our lives and raise our children. As parents and members of society, we felt a responsibility to send a clear message that hateful words and actions have consequences, and that we must do better as human beings,” Donald said in his own annoucement to leave Yonda Sports.
“We do not feel our beliefs, voices and actions belong anywhere near a space that misrepresents and oppresses people of any background, ethnicity or race. We’ve had the pleasure of working with many incredible people along the way and hope to continue to use our platform to uplift and support other families, children and communities through positive outreach,” he said.
The comments which sparked the controversy were made on Twitter.
West tweeted on Oct. 8: “Go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” He later said: “I can say antisemitic s*** and Adidas cannot drop me,” during a rant against Jews on the Drink Champs podcast. As West continued to double down on his hate speech, Adidas, which had previously dismissed athletes for drug use, said it would put the matter “under review.” Outside pressure forced its hand.
Adidas partnered with West nine years ago, when it wrestled his brand from Nike. In 2016, Adidas hailed it as “the most significant partnership ever created between a non-athlete and an athletic brand.”
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate.
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