Adidas ends partnership with Kanye West over anti-Semitic remarks

Adidas has ended its partnership with the rapper formerly known as Kanye West over his offensive and anti-Semitic remarks, the latest company to cut ties with Ye and a decision that the German sportswear company said would hit its bottom line.

“Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday. “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 faced pressure to cut ties with Ye, with celebrities and others on social media urging Adidas to act. It said at the beginning of the month that it was placing its lucrative sneaker deal with the rapper under review.

Adidas said on Tuesday that it conducted a “thorough review” and would immediately stop production of its line of Yeezy products and stop payments to Ye and his companies. The sportswear company said it was expected to take a hit of up to 250 million euros ($246m) to its net income this year from the decision.

The move by Adidas, whose CEO Kasper Rorsted is stepping down next year, comes after Ye was suspended from Twitter and Instagram this month over anti-Semitic posts that the social networks said violated their policies.

Forbes magazine said it had valued Ye’s share of the Adidas deal at $1.5bn. The end of that partnership deal meant his net worth shrank to $400m, it said.

The remainder of Ye’s wealth comes from real estate, cash, his music catalogue and a 5 percent stake in ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s shapewear firm, Skims, Forbes said.

String of controversies

He recently suggested slavery was a choice and called the COVID-19 vaccine the “mark of the beast”, among other comments. He was also criticised for wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt to his Yeezy collection show in Paris.

Ye’s talent agency, CAA, has dropped him, and the MRC studio announced on Monday that it is shelving a complete documentary about the rapper.

The Balenciaga fashion house cut ties with Ye last week, according to Women’s Wear Daily. JPMorgan Chase and Ye have ended their business relationship, although the banking breakup was in the works even before Ye’s anti-Semitic comments.

In recent weeks, Ye also has ended his company’s association with US retailer Gap Inc and has told Bloomberg that he plans to cut ties with his corporate suppliers.

On Tuesday Gap said it was taking ‘immediate steps’ to remove Yeezy Gap products from its stores and that it had shut down YeezyGap.com. “Antisemitism, racism and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance with our values,” the company said in a statement on its website.

After he was suspended from Twitter and Facebook, Ye offered to buy the conservative social network, Parler.

The rapper, who has won 24 Grammy Awards, has earned a reputation less for his music and more for stirring up controversy since 2016, when he was hospitalised in Los Angeles because of what his team called stress and exhaustion. It was later revealed that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Jewish groups have pointed to the danger of the rapper’s comments at a time of rising anti-Semitism. Such incidents in the US reached an all-time high last year, the Anti-Defamation League said in a letter to Adidas last week, urging it to break with Ye.

Demonstrators on a Los Angeles overpass unfurled a banner on Saturday praising Ye’s anti-Semitic comments, prompting an outcry on social media from celebrities and others who said they stand with Jewish people.

Jewish groups welcomed the Adidas decision but said the step was overdue. The World Jewish Congress noted that during World War II, Adidas factories “produced supplies and weapons for the Nazi regime, using slave labor”.

“I would have liked a clear stance earlier from a German company that also was entangled with the Nazi regime,” Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the main Jewish group in the country where Adidas has its headquarters.

“Adidas has done a lot to distance itself from its past and, like many sports brands, is one of those companies that conduct big campaigns against antisemitism and racism. That’s why an earlier separation from Kanye West would have been appropriate,” Schuster said in a statement.

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