A new report claims rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West told a Jewish Adidas executive to kiss a photo of Adolf Hitler, among other disturbing behavior.
Last year, when Adidas ended its partnership with West, the move appeared to be solely in response to the rapper’s public antisemitic tirades, but the New York Times reports that there was more going on behind the scenes — and had been for nearly 10 years.
Since Adidas and West began their partnership in 2013, the company appeared to ignore — and even adapt — to the “Gold Digger” rapper’s behavior while profits soared, which also made West a billionaire.
Interviews with current and former employees of Adidas and of West, as well as a review of hundreds of internal records — including contracts, text messages, and financial documents — revealed that the artist seems to have a “troubling fixation on Jews and Hitler,” among other things, New York Times reported.
At a 2013 meeting with Adidas designers at the company’s headquarters in Germany, for example, West reportedly drew a swastika on an Adidas sketch and later told a Jewish Adidas executive to kiss a portrait of Hitler every day.
The “Heartless” rapper also allegedly told Adidas employees that he admired Hitler’s command of propaganda.
Weeks before the swastika incident, West reportedly forced Adidas executives to watch pornography during a meeting inside his apartment in Manhattan. Last year, the “I Love It” rapper allegedly ambushed Adidas executives in Los Angeles with a pornographic film.
While the company’s contract with West had a clause in it that allowed Adidas to end the agreement if the rapper’s behavior harmed its reputation, it doesn’t appear that Adidas executives had ever considered invoking the clause before terminating their relationship with him last year, when West was acting out publicly, as a slew of other companies and entities dropped him.
Instead, Adidas “adapted” to West’s behavior, the Times reports.
Top executives and managers at Adidas reportedly started a group chat called “Yzy hotline,” where employees discussed how to address any chaos he caused.
The Adidas team ended up adopting a strategy that they compared to firefighting. They would rotate employees on and off the front lines of dealing with West, who reportedly made big demands, went through extreme mood swings, and threw shoes during company meetings. Tears were also common at said meetings.
And as Adidas adapted to the artist’s behavior, the company grew more reliant on West’s shoe brand, Yeezys.
West also made out pretty well, receiving a 15 percent royalty on net sales, with $15 million upfront, and millions of dollars in company stock each year under the 2016 contract. And then in 2019, Adidas agreed to $100 million annually for Yeezy marketing, which reportedly ended up becoming a fund from which West could spend with little oversight.
When Adidas parted ways from West last year, Yeezy sales stopped, and the company projected its first annual loss in decades. Meanwhile, West’s net worth plummeted.
Then, in May, “they had at least one more chance to keep making money together,” the Times reported, noting that Adidas began releasing the remaining $1.3 billion worth of Yeezys, with a cut of the proceeds going to charity, but most of the money going to Adidas, with West being entitled to royalties.