Adidas Severs Ties With Kanye West; Other Retailers Remove His Products Amid Backlash
Footwear and apparel company Adidas announced Tuesday that it has cut ties with the musician Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, following antisemitic comments and hate speech he recently posted on social media. Adidas, known for its sporting goods wear based out of Germany, had a nearly decade-long partnership with Ye that included his Yeezy fashion collection. The company said in a news release Tuesday the abrupt end of the partnership would result in a 250-million euro loss ($246 million) this year.
"Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech," the company said in the release. "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."
Other retailers and brands quickly followed suit. CNN Business reported Wednesday that Gap was pulling the rapper's Yeezy Gap line of merchandise from its stores (Ye terminated his partnership with Gap Inc. last month), and Foot Locker was pulling Yeezy products from its shelves. Women's Wear Daily reported last week that Balenciaga would no longer be working on projects with Ye and, its parent company, Kering, said it "has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist."
Ye recently appeared at a fashion show in Paris wearing a T-shirt with the slogan "White Lives Matter," which the Anti-Defamation League called a white supremacist phrase. He also was locked out of Twitter and Instagram earlier this month for posting antisemitic comments. Following the posts, he said on a podcast, "I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can't drop me," according to Vulture.
Total Retail's Take: Partnering with any A-list celebrity has its risks for retailers and brands, especially in the age of social media and at a time when an individual's every word and action can be captured through a cell phone and live eternally online. Celebrity partners are often a boon to a company's sales, but with the rise in popularity of the term "cancel culture" — referring to the practice of withdrawing support for a person or company based on their views, words or actions — we've seen brands that traditionally have stayed out of any controversial conversations in order to avoid alienating current and future customers start to take positions on contentious social issues. Indeed, Adidas' share price dropped almost 15 percent following the announcement of the end of the partnership with Ye.