Jewish Groups, Activists Blast Adidas After CEO Defends Kanye West’s Antisemitic Remarks
The German sportswear company Adidas is facing an onslaught of criticism after CEO Bjørn Gulden claimed in a recent interview that rapper and fashion designer Kanye West, who now legally goes by the name Ye, “didn’t mean what he said” when he made a series of antisemitic comments against Jews.
Gulden appeared to defend Ye — a former longtime business partner of Adidas with his Yeezy line of footwear, apparel, and accessories — on the Norwegian podcast In Good Company.
“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,” Gulden said. “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.”
Gulden did not condemn Ye’s antisemitic comments, instead lamenting how problems can arise when working with “third parties” and that such issues are part of the business.
The CEO’s comments were met with a torrent of criticism from Jewish and anti-hate groups.
Liora Rez, executive director of the watchdog group StopAntisemitism, said her organization is “appalled” by Adidas’ “continued unwillingness to take responsibility for their relationship with Kanye West,” arguing the rapper’s comments deserve a strong and unequivocal rebuke.
“Ye repeatedly doubled down on his shockingly antisemitic statements, leaving no doubt that he meant every word,” she told The Algemeiner. “Adidas already erred in selling off over $400 million worth of Yeezy products; while Ye will receive a percentage of that revenue, Adidas has provided no additional information on its promised donations to anti-hate organizations. Mr. Gulden leads a company founded by Nazis, and should know better than to minimize antisemitism for the sake of profit.”
Ye was voted as StopAntisemitism’s “Antisemite of the Year” in 2022, by an overwhelming majority. The Love Lockdown singer went on a tirade late last year against the Jewish community both on social media and in interviews. The rapper threatened violence against Jews, glorified Adolf Hitler and Nazis in general, compared himself to Jews hiding during the Holocaust, and shared on X/Twitter an image of a swastika blended with the Star of David.
Because of Ye’s comments, Adidas terminated its eight-year business partnership with the rapper and withdrew his Yeezy line of products.
“Kanye literally called for ‘Death Con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE’ and praised Hitler!” said human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky. “Seems @Adidas has learnt nothing from the Nazi roots, and is now – again – excusing antisemitism and Jew hatred, all in the name of profits! Shame on you Adidas!”
The Central Council of Jews in Germany — which represents the interests of the country’s Jewish population — expressed similar outrage with Gulden for defending Ye and not outright condemning his remarks targeting the Jewish community.
“Kanye West is an errant fanatic,” the Jewish group said on Thursday on social media. “If the justification of #Antisemitism is now the business policy of @adidas, companies and associations must ask themselves whether the global corporation from Germany can be a suitable partner.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) also found fault with Gulden’s comments. The organization listed in a post on X/Twitter examples of Ye’s offensive comments — which include him, saying “[Jews will] take us and milk us till we die.” The AJC then asked, “Is this what @adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden is talking about when he says Kanye didn’t mean to attack Jews?”
Ye announced in March that he no longer hates Jewish people after watching Jewish actor Jonah Hill star in the movie 21 Jump Street.
Gulden joined Adidas as CEO a few months after the company ended its working relationship with Ye. Over the summer, Adidas began selling its remaining Yeezy inventory and vowed to donate a “significant amount” of proceeds to groups that combat hate speech.
During his recent podcast interview, Gulden also discussed the Dassler brothers who founded Adidas “during and after the Second World War,” without mentioning that the German brothers were Nazi Party members.