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Adidas cuts ties with Ye over antisemitic remarks that caused an uproar

Adidas announced on Tuesday it is severing its partnership with Ye in light of the rap superstar's anti-Semitic comments.
Jonathan Leibson
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Adidas announced on Tuesday it is severing its partnership with Ye in light of the rap superstar's anti-Semitic comments.

Updated October 25, 2022 at 4:20 PM ET

Adidas said on Tuesday that it is cutting ties with Ye, the artist and fashion designer formerly known as Kanye West, following a series of antisemitic comments made in recent weeks.

Ye's nearly decade-long partnership with the German sportswear giant helped make the rap superstar a billionaire and vaulted his Yeezy branded sneakers to a global audience.

Following growing pressure on Adidas to drop Ye, the company announced that it does not tolerate antisemitism or other types 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 in a statement.

Adidas will no longer produce Yeezy products and stop payments to Ye and his companies, according to Adidas, which estimated that the decision is expected to hit its net income by nearly $250 million in 2022.

The company is among the latest to isolate Ye in the wake of a string of incendiary remarks, including that slavery was a choice and a leaked interview between Ye and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in which he said, "I'd prefer my kids knew Chanukah than Kwanzaa, at least it would come with some financial engineering."

Gap on Tuesday said it would pull all Yeezy brand clothing from its website and stores, accelerating the end of its partnership with Ye. The company and the artist announced their split in September, but Gap had planned to sell off products that had already been made. In recent months, Ye had disparaged both Gap and Adidas online, accusing them of design theft and failed promises.

Adidas, for its part, began "reviewing" its partnership with Ye earlier this month, after the artist wore a "White Lives Matter" shirt at Paris Fashion Week. The Anti-Defamation League considers the slogan, which has been embraced by white supremacists, a symbol of hate speech.

As the company examined its ties to Ye last week, the ADL asked in a letter, "what more do you need to review?" Jonathan Greenblatt, who leads the ADL, said in a statement on Tuesday that Adidas cutting ties with Ye "sends a powerful message that antisemitism and bigotry have no place in society."

The controversy brings attention to Adidas founder's Nazi ties

The attention also renewed scrutiny on the history of Adidas.

Brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler had been members of the Nazi party and toward the end of World War II, their shoe factory was converted into a munitions plant for the war effort.

The two had started manufacturing footwear, including spiked shoes, in Bavaria during the 1920s and were propelled to international fame after the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where legendary Black U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals wearing a pair of track spikes from the Dassler brothers.

An acrimonious rift between them led to the two splitting off: Adolf Dassler, known as Adi, founded Adidas in 1949. And his brother, who went by Rudi, started rival shoemaker Puma across the river from Adidas' operation.

Under German law, inciting hatred against people of a certain race or religion, including denying the Holocaust and spreading Nazi propaganda, is criminalized and can be punishable with prison time.

Publicly displaying a Swastika in the country is also outlawed and can result in prosecution.

As Ye continues to be squeezed, he eyes his own 'Yecosystem'

Twitter and Instagram suspended Ye earlier this month after making antisemitic posts, including a post on Twitter threating to go "death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE."

In response to the social media companies locking down his accounts, Ye announced that he was purchasing the conservative-friendly Twitter knock-off company Parler, in a move that puzzled tech observers. Details of the transaction have yet to be made public.

Adidas moving away from Ye is his latest fallout in the business world since he began unleashing his inflammatory comments. The Balenciaga fashion house has ended its relationship with him and Hollywood talent agency Creative Artists Agency also dumped him.

Production studio MRC said on Monday that it is shelving a finished documentary on Ye upon reviewing his recent antisemitic remarks,

"We cannot support any content that amplifies his platform," company executives said in a statement.

Ye has not responded to the Adidas breakup.

The rapper has said he intends to build his own "Yecosystem," which would include his own factories and retail stores as a way of fully separating himself from the corporate world.

NPR's Alina Selyukh contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn
Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.