In October, Adidas cut business ties with rapper Kanye West (now known as Ye) after a nearly decade-long partnership, citing his recent antisemitic rants as the last straw. However, in a new report from Rolling Stone, more than two dozen Adidas and Yeezy employees detail patterns of intimidation, bullying, and sexual harassment doled out by Ye over the length of the business collaboration, with Adidas executive ignoring the blatant issues in their offices.
“There was no accountability,” says one former staffer. “Difficult moments happened, with executives in the room—VP level or higher—and nothing would be done. You’d still show up to work the next day.”
Some of the behavior described by the staffers includes regularly showing hardcore porn in meetings, with Ye stating he uses them for inspiration. There’s also reports Ye showed explicit content featuring Kim Kardashian to interviewees. The Yeezy founder also allegedly made repeated, sexually loaded comments, mostly to female staffers, as a way to assert dominance over Adidas employees.
In the letter, per Rolling Stone, the staffers write, “He has, in years past, exploded at women in the room with offensive remarks, and would resort to sexually disturbing references when providing design feedback. This type of response from a brand partner is one that Adidas employees should never be subjected to, nor should Adidas leadership ever tolerate.”
Ye apparently cultivated an environment which tolerated “mind games” and outright bullying. In one meeting, Ye allegedly made a woman staffer sit on the floor for an hours long meeting, telling her, “You don’t deserve to sit at this table.”
“No wonder why he didn’t want senior business managers in the room,” the open letter claims. “He wanted to continue to use his power to violate you in a quiet way and threaten your role and existence within the team.”
However, not all of this behavior played out behind closed doors, and there were often times executives and higher ups were the subject of Ye’s workplace provocations. The former mantra for the company has been described as “Kanye is Kanye,” and staffers were told that they could either deal with his over-sexualization and screaming tirades, or get out.
Even when Ye hit his “Jesus kick” starting in 2020, the verbal abuse and controlling behavior continued, as did Ye’s tendency to showcase explicit content in the workplace. One staffer alleges Ye would “scream, jump on a table, and throw books across a room.”
“He’s just obsessed with power, and he has all the power and money to make somebody cut their hair, to make somebody lose their weight,” a staffer says. “To the same person, he can go say things like, ‘You fat slut,’ and then this person will still have to be forced to stay because that’s how they make money. They have a lease to pay.”
The employees say Adidas leaders “turned their moral compass off,” and instead focused on the billions in profit the Yeezy collaboration brought in. The open letter, which has been sent to the Adidas board, calls for contracts with A-list partners to be reviewed, as well as a public apology to the Yeezy team for “Kanye’s terrorizing behavior.”
“As much as we all would love to solely blame Kanye,” the letter states, “the undeniable truth is that the Adidas executive team and the board have been huge enablers.”
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