German sneaker giant Adidas insists it did not drag its feet in ending its relationship with Kanye “Ye” West’s Yeezy clothing partnership in the wake of his antisemitism spree, head of global marketing Vicky Free told Adweek during Social Media Week in Europe—even though the Teutonic cobblers received massive public pressure to act immediately, which they certainly did not do.
Backing out of their deal was complicated and involved many moving parts, she explained. “Our conviction is clear, we do not support antisemitism, racism or hate speech, there’s no question about it.”
It had been an “interesting few months” for the now-defunct partnership between the Yeezy apparel brand and Adidas, said Free. While Adidas had placed West’s deal under review as of October 7, following his “White Lives Matter” shirt event at Paris Fashion Week, they didn’t nix his deal, which ran through 2026.
On Oct. 8, West posted a tweet warning he would go “death con [sic] 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” By mid-October, West had gone fully off the rez, showing up on every outlet he could, from social media to interviews with Tucker Carlson’s show to Chris Cuomo and Piers Morgan to spew antisemitic stereotypes and anti-Black conspiracy theories, quickly getting himself suspended from Twitter and Instagram in the process. Luxury fashion house Balenciaga and fashion magazine Vogue, which had relationships with West, backed quickly away. Powerhouse talent agency CAA dropped him as a client. Yet Adidas remained mum, allowing consumers and fans to read what they wanted into the brand’s silence.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 16, West said on podcast Drink Champs: “I can say antisemitic things, and Adidas can’t drop me.” The clip was later removed.
The apparel giant took two weeks to cut business ties with West when other brands he was affiliated with had made the move much earlier. But on Oct. 25, Adidas announced it would “terminate” its Yeezy shoe and apparel line “immediately.” West’s “recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous,” the brand added. That same day, Gap and Foot Locker said they would remove Yeezy items from their stores, according to CNBC.
“The reality is, this is a complex situation,” Free said of the process of cutting ties with West. “We have employees, partners and production factories all around the world that are impacted by the decision we made. We know that was the right decision, but we needed to approach it with diligence and care. There [were] a lot of people involved. We took the time necessary to make the right decisions and I’m personally proud to stand by that decision.”
Free added, “We’ll always stand on the side of love, not hate.”
Last week, it became public that West had to pay off a former employee for his use of anti-semitic language in the workplace—and there were plenty of witnesses.
“He would praise Hitler by saying how incredible it was that he was able to accumulate so much power and would talk about all the great things he and the Nazi Party achieved for the German people,” the ex-associate, who settled with West and his companies in a deal that included a nondisclosure form, told CNN.
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