Kanye Omari West, now known as simply Ye, in many ways embodies the American dream. He transformed himself from a college dropout to a music and fashion industry juggernaut, amassing millions of fans (and dollars) along the way.
But an unrelenting penchant for controversial behavior and comments anchored to swirling men health questions have come home to roost.
On the heels of Ye's recent antisemitic comments, white supremacists on Saturday demonstrated their support for Ye – and their hatred of Jews – above a Los Angeles freeway. Those comments, amplified by the freeway protests, sparked major brands to cut ties.
Hollywood and Ye: Jamie Lee Curtis, Sarah Silverman, more react
Although some suggest his isolation is more cancel-culture run amok (The @JudiciaryGOP Twitter account supportively tweeted "Kanye. Elon. Trump" earlier this month), the myriad businesses now rushing away from the entertainer suggest his artistic, financial and personal future may be in jeopardy. Here's what the controversy is all about:
What did Ye say to cause this backlash?
On Oct. 8, Ye, 45, tweeted that he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” an apparent reference to the U.S. military readiness condition scale known as DEFCON. (DEFCON 1 is the highest level of alert and is reserved for nuclear engagement. DEFCON 5 is peacetime status.)
Twitter and Instagram locked his accounts in wake of the comment; his Instagram is no longer restricted, as West posted on the platform weeks later. (Ye has been seeking to buy Parler, a much smaller social-media platform favored by conservatives due to its loose content moderation policies.) Ye then went on various TV shows to explain himself, only to double down on his statement. He told Chris Cuomo of NewsNation's "Cuomo," "This is not hate speech; this is the truth."
On Oct. 22, members of an antisemitic group called Goyim Defense League assembled at an overpass of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. According to reports, the group hung a banner saying "Kanye is right about the Jews," and some offered a Nazi salute.
Officials immediately denounced the group, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted: "This weekend’s antisemitic protests in LA were disgusting and cannot be normalized or brushed aside. Words matter."
Adidas, Gap end partnerships with Ye, athletes leave his Donda Sports
Earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase, Ye's bank, demanded that he transfer his accounts to another institution by Nov. 21. This week, the fallout from Ye's comments has been more severe. On Monday, following the white supremacist gathering in Los Angeles, talent giant CAA dropped Ye as a client.
Film and TV studio MRC announced it would no longer release a finished documentary about West. In a memo, MRC said Ye was trafficking in a "lie that Jews are evil and conspire to control the world for their own gain."
The biggest blows came Tuesday, as giants of the fashion world – which account for most of Ye's billionaire status – got out of the Kanye business. Gap and Adidas both cut ties despite extremely lucrative arrangements with West. Adidas' Yeezy sneakers brought in billions for the German shoe giant, while the Gap axed a 10-year agreement to distribute Yeezy wear that was inked back in 2020. Foot Locker also took action, saying in a statement it has instructed retail operators to pull any remaining Yeezy products from shelves and digital sites.
The companies joined Balenciaga and Vogue in distancing themselves from the rapper. Vogue editor Anna Wintour had become a Ye supporter, even touting a pair of Ye's sunglasses as recently as last month, and was instrumental in many cover and article collaborations as the rap/fashion star rose.
Also on Tuesday, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown announced they were parting ways with Ye's marketing agency, Donda Sports.
On Wednesday, TJ Maxx also condemned Ye's remarks, saying it is they were backing away from his products.
"At TJX we do not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or hate of any kind," the company said in an emailed statement to USA TODAY. "We have instructed our buying teams not to purchase this merchandise for sale in any of our stores globally."
Ye's Donda Sports: Aaron Donald, Jaylen Brown cut ties with agency over antisemitic remarks
Morehouse College nixes tournament with Donda Sports team
Morehouse College, a historically Black men's college in Atlanta, announced the cancellation of a basketball tournament featuring the Donda Doves, a basketball team affiliated with Ye's Donda Sports, in a statement published Oct. 31.
The tournament was scheduled to take place Nov. 6 at the college's Forbes Arena and was also set to serve as the Doves' homecoming game, according to Donda Sports' Instagram page. Morehouse cited the content of Ye's recent statements as the reason for the cancellation.
"Throughout its history, Morehouse College, perhaps more than any other institution, has stood for social discourse which advances equity and healing, particularly in areas involving race, culture, and socio-economic disparities," the statement read. "We therefore cannot condone, in perception or implication, the recent divisive and unproductive statements made by Ye, formerly known as Kanye West."
Please see here for a statement regarding the Nov. 6 basketball tournament. pic.twitter.com/j7hLokWj4H
— Morehouse College (@Morehouse) October 31, 2022
Skechers says Ye escorted from office after arriving 'unannounced and uninvited'
On Wed, the shoe company Skechers said in a statement that Ye "arrived unannounced and without invitation" to one of the company's offices in Los Angeles and "engaged in unauthorized filming."
The rapper was escorted from the building by two Skechers executives after a brief conversation, the announcement said.
"Skechers is not considering and has no intention of working with West," the company wrote. "We condemn his recent divisive remarks and do not tolerate antisemitism or any other form of hate speech. The Company would like to again stress that West showed up unannounced and uninvited to Skechers corporate offices."
Is Ye still a billionaire? What's his net worth now?
The loss of Ye's lucrative Adidas partnership alone has knocked the rapper off Forbes' billionaire list. In April, the American business magazine released its annual report on billionaires with Ye valued at $2 billion. Forbes declared Tuesday that without Adidas, the rapper is worth $400 million as the partnership accounted for nearly $1.5 billion of his net worth.
Other controversial Ye moments
The rapper and producer has exhibited recent behavior that seemed engineered to generate controversy. At Paris Fashion Week earlier this month, Ye wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "White Lives Matter," which often is associated with white supremacist groups. He commented that he thought wearing the shirt would be "funny."
Ye's White Lives Matter T-shirt: Ye tells Tucker Carlson why he wore it
Ye has bipolar disorder, which could be a contributing factor in his public rants. Ye discussed the condition during a 2019 appearance on Netflix's "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman" series. He told Letterman about his feelings of paranoia, and how it seems "everyone wants to kill you."
Those manic urges have surfaced in different ways. When his ex Kim Kardashian began dating Pete Davidson, Ye posted grievances about the former "Saturday Night Live" star. Ye has said slavery "sounds like a choice," and was sued by George Floyd's family after falsely claiming that Floyd died from fentanyl rather than "cardiopulmonary arrest," complicated by "restraint and neck compression" while he was being subdued by police, as the official autopsy report said.
West also has been frequently seen in the company of former President Donald Trump, often sporting a "Make America Great Again" hat. He described wearing the hat as an act of classist rebellion, telling the Wall Street Journal that it "reminded me of how I felt as a Black guy before I was famous when I would walk in a restaurant and people would look at you like you were going to steal something. 'This is your place, Ye, don’t talk about apparel. This is your place, Ye, you’re Black, so you’re a Democrat.'"
West's true brush with pop culture infamy dates back to the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Taylor Swift was on stage accepting her award for best female video (for "You Belong With Me") when West dashed to the stage and grabbed Swift's microphone to say that the award really should be going to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."
Contributing: Naledi Ushe, Charles Trepany, Cydney Henderson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ye's Gap, Adidas partnerships end: The Kanye West backlash explained