But Adidas instead set release dates for the new line of Yeezy sneakers, even after Ye ended the endorsement deal himself and badmouthed the company’s executives by name.
Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt told The Washington Post that he had a number of conversations with senior Adidas executives and shareholders over the weekend to discuss Ye. The response has been “insufficient”, Greenblatt said.
“At this point, we’re a little baffled by how Adidas dropped the ball and failed to make a clear and compelling statement about its values,” he said. “Anti-Semitism should be unacceptable in all circumstances. The fact that Adidas did not make this simple point is shocking when you consider Adidas’ history as a company that once outfitted the Hitler Youth.
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The artist’s partnership with the sportswear giant began in 2013, made Ye a billionaire and helped Adidas reach a new clientele, one that Morningstar analyst David Swartz says helped to generate approximately $2 billion per year, or nearly 10% of its annual turnover. .
But like most major retailers, Adidas is also drowning in excess inventory. Its business in China is also rapidly declining, leading the company to announce on Thursday that it has downgraded its 2022 profitability outlook.
The company has been reviewing its partnership with Ye for three weeks, after he donned a “WHITE LIVES MATTER” shirt at Paris Fashion Week on Oct. 3 and then threatened “Go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” in a tweet. He was later banned from his Twitter and Instagram accounts for violating their terms of service.
Over the weekend, footage resurfaced on Twitter of an interview recorded in early October in which Ye gloated: “I can say anti-Semitic things and Adidas can’t let me go. Now what?” The “Drink Champs” podcast episode was later taken down because Ye also espoused misinformation about the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in police custody.
And a leaked video of his interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, posted by Motherboard earlier this month, showed the artist using anti-Semitic language, suggesting his children should learn about Hanukkah and not Kwanzaa because “at least it would come with some financial engineering”.
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The fallout continued when a producer of “The Shop,” an unscripted series on HBO hosted by LeBron James, told Andscape that the show cut his episode with Ye, citing his use of “hate speech and extremely dangerous stereotypes”.
But Adidas, whose founders had ties to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, remained silent on the relationship even as other companies took action. Friday, the French fashion house Balenciaga has ended its partnership with Ye.
On Monday, talent agency CAA dropped Ye as a client, citing his anti-Semitic rants, while Hollywood financier and producer MRC shelved a documentary about him that was already in production. In a press release, he said Ye had “sampled and remixed a classic tune that’s been traced for over 3,000 years – the lie that Jews are evil and conspiring to control the world for their own gain.”
Gap and Ye, who planned to open standalone Yeezy stores, parted ways in September, a split the artist had long sought and predated his most recent behavior. Gap, however, continues to offer Yeezy products for sale on its website and announced the launch of a new hoodie Friday in an email marketing campaign. Gap spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.
Adidas representatives also did not respond to requests for comment or offer public remarks to other news outlets or on the company’s social media channels. The company usually doesn’t comment on Ye and his stunts, such as when he said slavery was a choice and publicly disparaged the CEO. Swartz, the Morningstar analyst, thinks Adidas is sticking with this strategy but warns it won’t work this time.
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Ye is “getting more and more incendiary…it’s close to the point where it’s not viable anymore,” Swartz said. And while it’s hard to speculate what Adidas thinks, “it’s clearly something they don’t really want to deal with,” he added. “But they have to.”
Then there are practical considerations. A breakup of this magnitude is complicated, Swartz said. Production plans are established well in advance, often taking six to 18 months from the time an item is designed, manufactured, shipped, and released for sale.
“They can’t suddenly stop all their Yeezy shoe projects,” he said. “It’s not easy to come to an end without a huge loss, which is clearly something Adidas doesn’t want at the moment given its other issues.”
But now the company is being criticized by high-profile artists and business leaders. A Sunday tweet from the actress Kat Dennings seemed to sum up the sentiment: “The world is watching, @adidas.” Actress and director America Ferrera called on Adidas to drop Ye in an Instagram post, adding, “Don’t amplify this man’s influence.”
Comedian and actor Josh Gad posted on Twitter: “He’s not a good person. He’s a person whose dangerous rhetoric continues to go unchecked. Hey @adidas is that right? Can he target one religion and one group of people with hate and vitriol and it doesn’t matter Ask a friend.
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Alexander Vindman, a former White House national security official and a key figure in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, tweeted: “I’m kinda shocked that @adidas still hasn’t released a statement calling out hate. and anti-Semitism, let alone dismissed”. @kanyewest’s ass. Adidas seems more than happy to agree to be [branded] a company that supports hate.
Meanwhile, in a Financial Times op-ed, the chief executive of entertainment and media agency Endeavor said companies that work with Ye, including Adidas, Spotify and Apple, should end their deals.
“Those who continue to do business with West give an audience to his misguided hatred,” Ari Emanuel wrote. “There should be no tolerance anywhere for West’s anti-Semitism. This is a time in history where the stakes are high and being open about our values, and living them, is essential. Silence and inaction are not an option.
Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said celebrities, athletes, sports leagues and others doing business with Adidas should demand that he fire Ye or drop their own partnerships. Adidas makes uniforms for the National Hockey League; sponsors dozens of professional basketball, baseball, football and soccer players; and equips dozens of leading university athletic departments. Along with Ye, he has major fashion collaborations with Beyoncé and Bad Bunny.
“I think artists, leagues, teams, universities all have to ask themselves what it means to partner with a company like Adidas that refuses to step in and reject anti-Jewish hatred,” Greenblatt said.
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