Adidas ends Ye deal over hate speech, costing rapper his billionaire status

Adidas’ decision to dump Kanye West (above) was “overdue”, said a spokesman for the Central Council of Jews in Germany. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN – Adidas terminated its partnership with rapper and fashion designer Ye on Tuesday after he made a series of anti-Semitic remarks, a move that knocked the musician off the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires.

Adidas put the tie-up, which has produced several hot-selling Yeezy branded sneakers, under review this month.

“Adidas does not tolerate anti-Semitism and any other sort of hate speech,” the German company said on Tuesday.

“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,” it added.

Forbes magazine said the end of the deal meant Ye’s net worth shrank to US$400 million (S$566 million). The magazine had valued his share of the Adidas partnership at US$1.5 billion.

The remainder of Ye’s wealth comes from real estate, cash, his music catalogue and a 5 per cent stake in reality television star and ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s shapewear firm, Skims, Forbes said. 

Representatives for Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For Adidas, ending the partnership and the production of Yeezy branded products, as well as stopping all payments to Ye and his companies, will have a “short-term negative impact” of up to €250 million (S$352 million) on net income this year, the company said.

Ye, 45, has courted controversy in recent months by publicly ending major corporate tie-ups and making outbursts on social media against other celebrities.

His Twitter and Instagram accounts were restricted, with the social media platforms removing some of his online posts that users condemned as anti-Semitic.

In now-deleted Instagram posts earlier this year, the multiple Grammy Award-winning artiste accused Adidas and American apparel retailer Gap of failing to build contractually promised permanent stores for products from his Yeezy fashion line.

He also accused Adidas of stealing his designs for its own products.

On Tuesday, Gap, which had ended its partnership with Ye in September, said it was taking immediate steps to remove Yeezy Gap products from its stores and that it had shut down

“Anti-Semitism, racism and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance with our values,” Gap said in a statement.

European fashion house Balenciaga has also cut ties with Ye, according to media reports.

Meanwhile, music streaming service Spotify Technology said it would not remove Ye’s music unless his label requested it. 

Music from the rapper did not violate anti-hate policies, Spotify chief Daniel Ek told Reuters. 

Recent anti-Semitic remarks made by Ye are “just awful comments” and would have warranted removal from Spotify for violating its policies, which prohibit hate speech, if they had been on a podcast or recording, Mr Ek said.

But none of that content can be found on Spotify.

“It’s really just his music, and his music doesn’t violate our policy,” said Mr Ek, adding, “It’s up to his label, if they want to take action or not.” That has not happened.

Universal Music’s Def Jam label, which owns the copyright to Ye’s recordings from 2002 through 2016 and continued distributing his releases until last year, issued a statement condemning his remarks, saying: “There is no place for anti-Semitism in our society.”

It did not ask for the removal of Ye’s recordings, many of which are critically acclaimed works. The music can also be found on Apple Music and YouTube Music.

Spotify has faced backlash when it punished musicians for their personal misconduct. 

The streaming service removed R. Kelly’s music from its playlists and recommendations in 2018 following allegations of sexual misconduct. It walked back the policy after other artistes threatened boycotts, giving users a mute button to block particular artistes instead. 

If Ye’s label asks for the rapper’s catalogue to be removed, Mr Ek said: “Obviously we’ll respect their wishes.” REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.