Kanye West and Adidas – what was a highly profitable connection for almost a decade for both sides: The sporting goods manufacturer sold the Yeezy collection line designed by the rapper and made billions in sales. The relationship could have lasted forever, but after West repeatedly caused outrage with anti-Semitic statements and was dropped by other business partners, the German company also had to pull the ripcord. On October 25, 2022, Adidas ended the collaboration.
There were already critics who accused the company of tolerating West's antics for far too long. A detailed investigation by the “New York Times” now reveals the extent of the turning away. And paints a picture that is anything but favorable for the brand with the three stripes.
Right from the start of their collaboration, the rapper was noticed for his gaffes. In 2013, during his visit to the company's headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Franconia, West is said to have drawn a swastika on a shoe with a felt-tip pen - to express how offensive he found the designs.
However, that wasn't a blip. As the New York Times writes, the artist has repeatedly made anti-Semitic and sexually abusive comments over the years. Adidas let him get away with it – business was just too good.
Many of the allegations detailed in the article are well known - such as that West played a porn video to Adidas employees during a business meeting, supposedly to increase creativity.
Other events were not yet known in this form and are disturbing. West is said to have recommended that a Jewish Adidas manager kiss the picture of Adolf Hitler every day.
All of this could have happened for years without Adidas intervening. It was only when public pressure became too great that conclusions were drawn: "Adidas does not tolerate anti-Semitism or any other type of hate speech," it was announced at the time. Neither current nor former Adidas executives wanted to comment when asked by the New York Times. The company declined an interview request. Adidas did at least make a statement: They have “no tolerance for hate speech and offensive behavior, which is why the company has ended the Adidas Yeezy partnership.”
But even after the collaboration ended, the sporting goods manufacturer benefited from the time together: The warehouses were full of Yeezy shoes that had already been produced. Adidas brought them onto the market this year. The first round of sales went so well that the company raised its forecast for the current year in the summer.
Adidas boss Bjørn Gulden had previously announced that he would donate a "significant" portion of the proceeds to organizations that work against discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism. The shareholders didn't care: Adidas shares rose. This means that Kanye West is still making money in the year after the collaboration ended.
Sources: "New York Times", "Tagesschau"