Kanye West ‘Didn’t Mean What He Said’ With Antisemitic Comments, Adidas CEO Claims
Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden said he doesn’t think rapper Kanye West “meant what he said” when he made a series of antisemitic comments about Jews late last year — remarks which resulted in the German sportswear company ending its lucrative business relationship with the musician and designer.
In a recent interview with the Norwegian podcast In Good Company, Gulden called the Gold Digger singer, now known as Ye, “one of the most creative people in the world” before addressing the musician’s offensive remarks.
“He’s extremely creative and has together with Adi created a Yeezy line that was very successful. And then, as creative people [do], he did some statements, which wasn’t that good,” said the Norwegian CEO of Adidas, who was a former professional soccer player. “Very unfortunate, because I don’t think he meant what he said, and I don’t think he’s a bad person. It just came across that way. And that meant we lost that business, one of the most successful collabs in the history. Very sad.”
“But again, when you work with third parties, that could happen,” he added. “It’s part of the game. That can happen with an athlete, it can happen with an entertainer. It’s part of the business.”
Gulden, who was formerly the CEO of Puma, became CEO of Adidas in January, just months after the company ended its partnership with Ye.
Starting in October 2022, the Grammy Award-winning rapper made a series of remarks targeting Jews. In a post on X/Twitter, he threatened to “go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” referring to the US military’s DEFCON system to rate how alert armed forces should be in the face of a threat.
Then in December, Ye posted an image of a swastika blended with the Star of David on social media. He also praised Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, promoted antisemitic conspiracy theories and stereotypes, and compared himself to Jews hiding in the Holocaust, claiming, “There are Jewish people basically hiding me under their floorboards right now. It’s like a reverse version of the Holocaust.”
On Instagram, the musician posted a screenshot of a conversation with rapper and designer Diddy, writing, “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me [sic].”
In late October, Adidas terminated its partnership with Ye, which began in 2014. The company broke its contract with the rapper and withdrew his Yeezy line of footwear, apparel, and accessories, saying his comments were “unacceptable, hateful, and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect, and fairness.”
Gulden announced in May plans for the company’s remaining Yeezy inventory, saying it would be sold but a “significant amount” of proceeds would be given to groups that combat hate speech, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism. Adidas dropped its first release of unsold Yeezy sneakers in June and said in August that it made roughly 400 million euros ($437 million) in revenue in its second quarter from selling its leftover Yeezy stock, with Ye still earning his share of the profits.
At a shareholders meeting this summer, Gulden said Adidas has a total of 500 million unsold Yeezys that have a selling value of more than $1 billion. The company’s decision to cut ties with Ye resulted in Adidas losing $655 million in sales for the last three months of 2022, the Associated Press reported.