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Adidas cuts ties with Ye after he made anti-Semitic comments

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Adidas is severing ties with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after days of pressure. This will end its long-running Yeezy collaboration with the artist, who has made numerous anti-Semitic and other offensive comments recently. NPR's Alina Selyukh is here to tell us more. Hey there.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hello. Hello.

SUMMERS: Alina, there's been a lot going on, so can you just start by catching us up on what's been happening?

SELYUKH: Yes. Well, for the past few weeks, companies have been cutting ties with Ye - Balenciaga, his bank, JPMorgan Chase, his talent agency. That's earlier this month how it started as he showed up at the Paris Fashion Week in a T-shirt that said white lives matter, which is a slogan attributed to white supremacist groups. Then he went on these anti-Semitic rants online and interviews perpetuating these old, bigoted conspiracies about Jewish people. He got suspended from Instagram and Twitter. But Adidas said it put its partnership with Ye under review and then silence. On the podcast "Drink Champs," Ye even taunted Adidas.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "DRINK CHAMPS")

YE: I could say anti-Semitic things, and Adidas can't drop me. Now what?

SELYUKH: After weeks of that silence, Adidas finally announced it's splitting with Ye today, calling his actions unacceptable, hateful, dangerous, saying it will stop producing Yeezy products.

SUMMERS: And, Alina, why do you think it took Adidas so much longer than all of these other companies that had relationships with Ye and severed them?

SELYUKH: Its partnership with Ye is massive. It's almost 10 years old. Adidas says ending it will cost the company a quarter billion dollars in profits just this year. The Yeezy brand made Kanye West a billionaire, but it also made Adidas huge, especially with sneaker collectors. People would camp out to buy these limited drops, which actually happened just this past week. In the middle of all this controversy, Adidas had a sellout drop of the latest Yeezys.

SUMMERS: OK. So how did all of this increase scrutiny of Adidas, the company?

SELYUKH: You know, while Adidas stayed silent, critics sort of filled in that vacuum digging into its past. And this is a German company whose founder had been a Nazi. His name is Adolf Dassler, also known as Adi Dassler. He and his brother were famous after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where they made shoes for the German team, also for the American track legend Jesse Owens. During World War II, the Dassler factory was used to manufacture munitions for the Nazis. A few years after the war, Adi launched Adidas. His brother actually started rival Puma. And you would think this dark history would raise the stakes for Adidas to quickly stop any perception that it's ignoring anti-Semitism. That's what crisis PR expert Eric Yaverbaum told me.

ERIC YAVERBAUM: The thing about the spotlight is it is a moment in time when you can do the right thing. So, yeah, they cut their ties. That's only the first step. What's the second step? Will there be one?

SUMMERS: So what do we know, Alina, about what the next step is for Adidas?

SELYUKH: The company promises more details in a couple of weeks. It's worth noting that all these corporate deals that Ye had, companies for years sort of skated around his provocative, disturbing, offensive behavior. And we'll see how long it remains a liability for Adidas in this case.

SUMMERS: NPR's Alina Selyukh, thank you.

SELYUKH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alina Selyukh
Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she covers retail, low-wage work, big brands and other aspects of the consumer economy. Her work has been recognized by the Gracie Awards, the National Headliner Award and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
Gus Contreras
Sarah Handel
Uri Berliner
As Senior Business Editor at NPR, Uri Berliner edits and reports on economics, technology and finance. He provides analysis, context and clarity to breaking news and complex issues.
Juana Summers
Juana Summers is a co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, alongside Ailsa Chang, Ari Shapiro and Mary Louise Kelly. She joined All Things Considered in June 2022.