Anti-Defamation League urges Adidas to sever ties with Ye’s Yeezy

Kanye West arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Evan Agostini | Invision | AP

The Anti-Defamation League is urging Adidas to sever ties with Ye, calling out his recent hateful comments in a letter to Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted and Chair Thomas Rabe.

The rapper and designer, formerly known as Kanye West, has in recent weeks made several degrading remarks about Jewish people and targeted his business partners with public threats. In September, he parted ways with retailer Gap, and earlier this month, Adidas said it was reviewing its relationship with Ye.

In the interim, though, the retailer said it would “continue to co-manage the current product” from Ye’s Yeezy brand, according to an Oct. 6 statement.

“In light of Kanye West’s increasingly strident antisemitic remarks over the past few weeks, we were disturbed to learn that Adidas plans to continue to release new products from his Yeezy brand without any seeming acknowledgement of the controversy surrounding his most recent remarks,” the ADL letter reads.

“We urge Adidas to reconsider supporting the Ye product line and to issue a statement making clear that the Adidas company and community has no tolerance whatsoever for antisemitism,” the letter says.

Adidas did not immediately respond to request for comment from CNBC.

Ye first partnered with Adidas in 2013 but has recently said he believes the company stole his ideas and hasn’t given him enough control over the Yeezy brand. He’s posted pictures attacking Adidas board members to his social media and in early September posted a doctored image of a New York Times front page falsely claiming Rorsted had died.

In recent days, Ye’s comments have escalated to include threatening and hateful comments about Jewish people. Twitter and Instagram both suspended him from the platforms. On Monday, right-wing social media company Parler said Ye had agreed to buy the app.

The ADL compiled a list of what it deemed harmful recent comments by Ye.

“At a time of rising antisemitism, when incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2021, such statements are more than damning — they are dangerous. … We hope that more companies, individuals, and political leaders will take action to show that there will be consequences for such hateful rhetoric and that they do not give Ye’s antisemitism a pass,” the statement said.

Adidas recently said its collaboration with Ye has been one of the most successful for the brand to date.

Morningstar analyst David Swartz estimates Yeezy sales for Adidas to be around $2 billion annually, potentially making up 10% of Adidas’s total sales. The retailer doesn’t report specific Yeezy sales numbers.

“Ten years ago, Adidas was struggling in the U.S., the largest sportswear market. Thanks, in part, to Yeezy, its U.S. business has rebounded,” Swartz said. “It has helped bring its North America business back to relevance, and it has made Adidas relevant in the collectors’ market and probably allows it to reach a demo that it has missed.”

Separately on Thursday, Adidas announced preliminary third-quarter results in which the retailer lowered its full-year 2022 guidance due to deterioration of traffic trends in China and a significant inventory buildup as consumer demand waned in major Western markets.

The Anti-Defamation League urges Adidas to sever ties with Kanye West