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How Adidas Enabled Kanye West’s Hateful Conduct Due to Lucrative Yeezy Sales

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Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Adidas

A New York Times Report Details Kanye West's Disturbing Behavior in Adidas Yeezy Deal Over the Years

A recent New York Times exposé offers alarming insight into how Adidas tolerated years of offensive behavior from Kanye West. According to current and former employees, Adidas executives repeatedly indulged West’s hateful actions during their lucrative Yeezy partnership. Their obsession with profit led the company to ignore glaring red flags.

Through interviews and leaked documents, The Times pieced together a pattern of disturbing incidents tracing back to West and Adidas’ first collaborations. During early meetings, West reportedly drew a swastika on a shoe design when dissatisfied with the prototypes. On another occasion, he told a Jewish Adidas employee to kiss a photo of Hitler every day.

Despite such appalling antisemitic gestures, Adidas continued the partnership that was raking in over $1 billion annually. Their willingness to overlook West’s conduct apparently stemmed from the business upside.

But eventually, West’s unhinged social media rants became too incendiary for Adidas to ignore. After an onslaught of offensive and extreme commentary this fall, Adidas finally terminated the Yeezy deal in October 2022. However, the brand had already sent the message that profit outweighed ethics.

This investigative report underscores how Adidas, and the corporate world at large, often use social issues as marketing gimmicks versus living by those values. Adidas was more than happy to profit from West’s designs while turning a blind eye until it harmed their bottom line.

A Partnership Forged Despite Repeated Red Flags

According to The Times, Adidas executives were enthralled by the profit potential of a Kanye West collaboration from the beginning. In 2006, they began courting him to leave Nike and join Adidas.

At their initial design meetings, West immediately made hateful gestures like drawing a swastika and demanding a Jewish staffer honor Hitler. For any reasonable organization, this would necessitate cutting ties.

However, Adidas saw only West’s marketing power and trendsetting influence. They bargained away their integrity for the promise of sales windfalls and hypebeast appeal.

So in 2013, Adidas went all in on their Yeezy partnership. The brand not only tolerated West’s outbursts – they often caved and gave him more control. The money flooding in justified every compromise.

Success Breeds Greater Transgressions

The Times’ sources detailed how West wielded his commercial success to keep pushing boundaries of offensive behavior. With Yeezy’s rise, his tirades only grew more hostile.

He created an abusive work culture where he’d threaten and berate staff. When Adidas finally commissioned an independent investigation in 2021, West retaliated by wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt publicly.

According to employees, Adidas opportunities enabled West to surround himself with YES men and silence critics. Wealth and fame emboldened his attacks rather than inspiring reflection.

Ultimately, Adidas failed to institute any meaningful oversight. Chasing profits came at the cost of accountability, leading to their brand being co-opted to amplify West’s hate.

Prioritizing Values Over Valuation

This sobering case study in compromising values for sales serves as a teachable moment for brands. Adidas’ experience highlights the importance of enacting zero tolerance policies and applying consistent standards.

No partner or collaboration should be deemed too lucrative to drop if they cross ethical lines. Brands must uphold values even at the cost of valuation.

Through meticulous reporting, The Times exposed how Adidas’ greed and indifference led them to bankroll West’s discrimination and bullying. The exposé is a cautionary tale on integrity and complicity all companies would be wise to heed before ending up on the wrong side of history.

Ultimately, success measured only in money rings hollow. This harrowing case underscores that brands can’t truly win when they sell out their principles.

Source: The New York Times

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