- Adidas on Tuesday cut ties with the musician and entrepreneur Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.
- The decision followed a series of anti-Semitic rants by Ye.
- A wave of influencers, celebrities, and organizations called on Adidas to drop Ye.
Adidas severed ties on Tuesday with the musician and entrepreneur Kanye West, following a month of controversies and anti-Semitic rants from the artist. The company’s announcement followed an intense campaign from internet users, celebrities, and anti-hate-speech organizations pressuring Adidas to end their almost decade-long, multi-billion dollar creative partnership.
“adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech,” Adidas wrote in a statement on its website announcing it was immediately terminating the partnership with West, who recentlly legally changed his name to Ye.
“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.”
In recent days, a growing online movement began widely sharing posts and adding urgency to demands for the German apparel company to drop Ye. A petition organized by the research group Campaign Against Antisemitism amassed over 170,000 signatures in favor of Adidas ending its relationship.
While Ye has courted controversy for years, the frequency and severity of incidents and backlash that he’s received in the last few weeks intensified to the point where multiple brands, including Gap, ended collaborations. Ye wore a “WHITE LIVES MATTER” shirt to Paris Fashion Week, falsely claimed that George Floyd died from fentanyl (resulting in Floyd’s family taking legal action), and appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.
The tipping point came after Ye’s flurry of anti-Semitic rants earlier this month. In early October, he wrote a tweet vowing to go “death con 3” on Jewish people, which led to his Instagram and Twitter accounts being restricted. Parler, the social media platform known for hosting far-right conspiracy theories, announced that Ye had agreed to buy the company shortly after his accounts were limited on mainstream platforms.
Ye appeared on a now-deleted episode of the “Drink Champs” podcast last week to brag about how the company wouldn’t separate from him no matter what he said, in a clip that later became used as part of the online pressure campaign calling for Adidas to end their deal with him. Despite the escalating pressure on Adidas to drop Ye, the company remained a holdout even as other companies like Balenciaga and Ye’s talent agency CAA broke away.
“The thing about me and Adidas is like, I could literally say anti-Semitic shit and they can’t drop me,” Ye said in a clip of the podcast that has almost five million views. “I could say anti-Semitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?”
The campaign to pressure Adidas to drop Ye accelerated dramatically
The public outcry against Adidas working with Ye ramped up in the last few days, especially after a group of conspiracy theorists hung anti-Semitic banners on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles over the weekend. One banner stated, “KANYE IS RIGHT ABOUT THE JEWS.”
One of the loudest voices in the backlash was the Anti-Defamation League, which spearheaded a campaign, “#StepAwayFromHate,” to pressure Adidas to end its collaboration with Ye. The hashtag “#BoycottAdidas” also went viral on Twitter. Other organizations like Occupy Democrats, the American Jewish Committee, and StopAntisemitism similarly criticized Ye’s anti-Semitic posts.
A slew of celebrities on Twitter and Instagram — from comedian Amy Schumer and actor Daniel Newman to the politics influencer Brian Tyler Cohen and David Schwimmer — spoke out against the rapper-entrepreneur or issued general condemnations of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Kim Kardashian, who filed for divorce from Ye in March of last year, also tweeted against anti-Semitism but did not explictly name Ye.
“I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate end,” Kardashian wrote on Twitter.
Many also explicitly implored Adidas to drop Ye. “The world is watching,” actress Kat Dennings tweeted to the shoe and clothing company on Sunday.
A LinkedIn post from an Adidas employee speaking out against the partnership also went viral, with a picture of her message widely shared on multiple platforms.
“As a member of the Jewish community, I can no longer stay silent on behalf of the brand that employs me,” Sarah Camhi, a Director of Trade Marketing at Adidas, wrote on LinkedIn. “It’s been 14 days since Kanye started spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric and adidas has remained quiet.”
Adidas ending their partnership with Ye is a major decision for the company given the financial success of its Yeezy brand, which an analyst told The Washington Post has generated an estimated $2 billion a year for the company.
The ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, published a statement celebrating the announcement.
“Without a doubt, Adidas has done the right thing by cutting ties with Ye after his vicious antisemitic rants,” Greenblatt wrote. “Adidas’ action sends a powerful message that antisemitism and bigotry have no place in society.”