Kanye West in 2022.
Photo: Gotham/GC Images
Adidas allowed Kanye West’s erratic behavior, which included allegations of antisemitism and sexual harassment, to go unchecked for nearly a decade until the company ended their partnership last year, a New York Times report alleges. West entered the Yeezy collaboration with the German sportswear company in 2013, and Adidas made billions of dollars while employees claim they suffered through forced screenings of pornography, tense work environments filled with shouting and tears, and the rapper’s increasing admiration of Hitler, according to the New York Times, which interviewed current and former staffers and combed through hundreds of internal documents for the story.
On multiple occasions, the rapper who now goes by Ye is accused of making executives watch sexually explicit films, including an “ambush” at the Los Angeles office after he encouraged high-profile friends like Diddy and Swizz Beatz to threaten a boycott in 2022, just before the company cut ties with him over his public antisemitic and anti-Black comments. (An internal letter reported by Rolling Stone accused Adidas of condoning West’s “problematic behavior” in 2022.) Staffers complained about “angry, sexually crude” comments he reportedly made at his first Yeezy runway show in 2015. He also showed executives pornographic films at a meeting in his Manhattan apartment in 2013, the report alleged. Just weeks before the 2013 incident, he allegedly drew a swastika over a sketch of a shoe while the Adidas team pitched ideas. Other cases of antisemitism include advising “a Jewish Adidas manager to kiss a picture of Hitler every day” and telling an executive he paid a seven-figure settlement to senior employees who accused him of “repeatedly praising the architect of the Holocaust,” according to the Times. Despite employee complaints and a “Yzy hotline” group chat between executives to address issues, the company agreed to give him a $100 million annual expenditure in 2019 that on paper was for Yeezy marketing but was “in practice, a fund that he could spend with little oversight.”
Though Adidas terminated their partnership, the company restarted the sale of $1.3 billion’s worth of Yeezys previously stored in warehouses all over the world in May, taking in $437 million in sales through June and cutting the company’s projected annual loss from $700 million to about $100 million, per the Times. The current CEO, Bjorn Gulden, lamented the end of the profitable era for the company in a podcast interview last month — “one of the most successful collabs in history” — and apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for his remarks days later, the Times reported. A small portion of the proceeds from the warehouse sale of Yeezys will be donated to causes battling racism and antisemitism. Ye will likely still get his cut.
Adidas Made Billions Before Addressing Ye’s Antisemitism