Kanye West raised eyebrows at Adidas for his antisemitic actions and pornography obsession from the moment he began his partnership in 2013 — much of which was overlooked ahead of the company’s contract termination in 2022.
During one of West’s first meetings with the sneaker company in 2013, he traveled to Germany to see what the team had come up with for his first Yeezy collection. The rapper, 46, was unimpressed right out the gate, according to a New York Times exposé published on Friday, October 27.
“To convey how offensive he considered the designs, he grabbed a sketch of a shoe and took a marker to the toe, according to two participants. Then he drew a swastika,” the outlet claimed while looking into West’s controversial partnership.
The Times reported that weeks before the swastika incident, West allegedly “made Adidas executives watch pornography during a meeting at his Manhattan apartment, ostensibly to spark creativity.”
West’s antisemitic statements and actions — and his instance that porn watching parties would help the staff be creative — continued for years. Several employees complained about “sexually crude” comments, and he allegedly made “sexually explicit” remarks to one of his global directors, Rachel Muscat. When West signed a new lucrative contract with Adidas in 2016, the company fought for a new clause that would protect their interests should the “Jesus Walks” performer get out of hand, morally or criminally.
West agreed to the brand’s terms for termination, which included “felony conviction, bankruptcy, 30 consecutive days of mental health or substance abuse treatment,” per The Times. The contract also stated that anything that brings “disrepute, contempt, scandal” to West or tarnishes Adidas could be grounds for termination.
Two years later, however, West was allegedly still spewing hate speech and Nazi ideation at the workplace. West reportedly told Eric Liedtke, Adidas’s global brand manager and an executive board member, as well as another manager that he “paid a seven-figure settlement the outgoing chief executive of his Yeezy operation, who had accused him of commending Hitler and creating a hostile workplace,” according to the outlet. (That same year, West confirmed he diganosed with bipoler disorder.)
Former Adidas global director of entertainment and influencer marketing Jon Wexler, who is Jewish, had his own uncomfortable run-in with West during the partnership. Wexler allegedly told his colleagues that West “told him to hang a photo of Hitler in his kitchen and kiss it every day to practice unconditional love,” per the exposé.
Despite reports of West being antisemitic at work on several occasions, it wasn’t until 2022 that Adidas parted ways with the Grammy winner. The company’s actions came after West went on a social media rant in October 2022 saying he was “going death con 3 [sic] on JEWISH PEOPLE” in addition to other hateful comments.
“Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech,” Adidas said in a statement at the time. “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.”
While they terminated their partnership, $1.3 billion worth of remaining Yeezy inventory was left sitting in warehouses. The company eventually started selling off the backlog in spring 2023. A portion of the proceeds — Yeezys reportedly brought $437 million from May to June — are going to several charities, including the Anti-Defamation League. The rest of the revenue went to Adidas and West, according to The Times.
In September, Adidas once again came under fire for its association with West when the current chief executive, Bjorn Gulden, called the past partnership “one of the most successful collabs in history.” He lamented during an appearance on the “In Good Company” podcast that it was “very unfortunate” how things ended with West. Gulden then claimed he didn’t think West “meant what he said.”
Adidas quickly announced that Gulden had apologized for his remarks. “Our decision to end our partnership with Ye because of his unacceptable comments and behavior was the right one,” the company said in a September statement. “Our stance has not changed.”
Us Weekly has reached out Adidas and West for comment.