Adidas has realized it was time to boot Ye

An Adidas executive called on the company to sever ties with the rapper who co-designed the Yeezys days before.
Adidas has realized it was time to boot Ye
Image: Neilson Barnard (Getty Images)
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The creators of the popular Yeezy sneakers are finally set to part ways.

German sportswear giant Adidas ended its partnership with rapper-design Ye (formerly Kanye West) today (Oct. 25).  

Bloomberg, which reported the move hours before the official announcement, said that adidas could keep producing the models because it believes it owns the intellectual property rights to them, citing anonymous sources. But according to the company’s statement, it “will stop the adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.”

The Ye-Adidas break up

In 2016, when the deal was first announced, Adidas called it “the most significant partnership ever created between an athletic brand and a non-athlete.” In 2018, when Ye called slavery a “choice,” Adidas kept working with him despite pressure to cut ties.

So what’s changed now?

In recent months, the relationship between the two has been increasingly strained. Ye has gone after Adidas for allegedly stealing his designs and walking back on promises like opening name-brand stores. (He leveled similar accusations against Gap, too, which cut ties last month.) In September, West claimed Adidas tried to buy him out for $1 billion. Separately, there was uncomfortable footage of Ye forcing Adidas executives to watch porn during a business meeting.

The breaking point seems to be coming after Ye made controversial anti-semitic statements in recent weeks, including wanting to go “death con 3” on Jewish people. Not only did the comments get him banned from Instagram and Twitter, several corporate partners have moved to cut ties with Ye.

Especially as the chorus asking Adidas to do the same grows with many, including LA mayoral candidate Karen Bass and Friends fame David Schwimmer, putting pressure on the brand. Adidas director of trade marketing Sarah Camhi has also called on her employer to take a stand and condemn Ye’s anti-semitic remarks: “Not saying anything, is saying everything,” she wrote in a public LinkedIn post.

What Ye says

“The thing about me and Adidas is I can literally say antisemitic shit and they can’t drop me. I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” —Ye on the Drink Champs podcast

Adidas’ full statement

“adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. 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.

After a thorough review, the company has taken the decision to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies. adidas will stop the adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.

This is expected to have a short-term negative impact of up to €250 million on the company’s net income in 2022 given the high seasonality of the fourth quarter.

adidas is the sole owner of all design rights to existing products as well as previous and new colorways under the partnership. More information will be given as part of the company’s upcoming Q3 earnings announcement on November 9, 2022.” -Adidas

Charted: Adidas share price

The Ye controversy has weighed heavily on the company’s market performance. The shares fell as much as 3.2% in Frankfurt trading, reaching the lowest since April 2016.

But the decision likely took some thought and time because cutting off from Ye means cutting off from a lucrative business line.

Ye-Adidas, by the digits

15%: Royalties Ye gets from Yeezy products. He wanted 20%, though.

$1.7 billion: Yeezy sales in 2021

8%: How much of Adidas’ total sales Yeezys account for

Billionaire: What Ye won’t be without Adidas, as the deal is worth an estimated $1.5 billion, the largest share of the rapper’s net worth, according to Forbes.

Who’s severed ties with Ye?

🕺Less than a month after Ye opened its show at Paris Fashion Week, Balenciaga has said the company “has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist.” Ye’s look from his runway debut was removed from Balenciaga’s website, along with a section containing the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga collaboration, Rolling Stones reported.

💼 Talent agency Creative Arts Agency, which represented Ye for touring, dropped the artiste.

🎥 Film and TV producer MRC won’t proceed with the distribution of its documentary about Ye.

What can Ye slide away from Adidas?

The patent for almost every Yeezy model manufactured is with adidas AG, US patent and trademark office records show, according to an analysis by sneaker publication Sole Retriever. That would give the sportswear brand full ownership, and right to keep producing them. But one footwear belongs to Ye alone: The Yeezy Slide. A 2020 patent filing for it is held by Ye’s firm Mascotte Holdings, with Kanye named as the inventor.

Should businesses boot Ye?

The anti-semitic statements aren’t the only problematic incident: Ye has been accused of harassing his ex-wife Kim Kardashian in the wake of their divorce. He donned a “White Lives Matters” shirt at Paris Fashion week and bullied Vogue fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson for criticizing it. He’s spread false rumors about George Floyd’s death.

Ye, who suffers from bipolar disorder, might be given some leeway for his mental health. But his influence is too big to not have real-world repercussions. For instance, on Sunday (Oct. 23), a small group of antisemitic demonstrators protested on a Los Angeles freeway with banners that read “Kanye is right about the Jews.”

“Hate groups like White Lives Matter and the Goyim Defense League are celebrating and promoting Ye’s comments to further their extremist agendas,” the Anti-Defamation League noted in a campaign calling on Adidas to cut ties with its brand partner. “Adidas allowing Kanye to continue to spew hateful rhetoric without consequence sets a dangerous precedent of giving social influencers a pass for being antisemitic.”

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This story was updated with a statement from Adidas, released after publication