The claim is part of a detailed investigation into the 46-year-old rapper’s business partnership with adidas; specifically, how the sneaker giant turned a blind eye to West’s alleged problematic behaviour – including making sexually offensive and antisemitic remarks – for 10 years before finally terminating their lucrative Yeezy deal in 2022.
Adidas severed ties with West last October, distancing itself from the “unacceptable, hateful and dangerous” comments he made about Jewish people as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, as several celebrities and politicians also criticised his social media posts and interviews.
Almost one year later, on Friday (27 October), The New York Times reported that adidas ignored a decade’s worth of West’s alleged objectionable outbursts, misconduct, and a preoccupation with Jews and Hitler.
According to the report — based on interviews with past and current adidas employees and internal company records – West allegedly told Jon Wexler, the company’s former global head of entertainment and influencer marketing, to kiss a picture of Hitler every day.
During a 2013 meeting with executives, West expressed his disdain for a sneaker design by drawing a swastika over the sketch. The presentation was held in Germany, where nearly all displays of the symbol are banned.
Weeks prior to this meeting, he allegedly made company employees watch pornography at his New York apartment to “spark creativity”.
Over the next 10 years, these sorts of instances allegedly occurred frequently, with adidas at the time apparently choosing to prioritise maintaining the working relationship with West that brought in over a billion dollars in sales of Yeezy sneakers.
West declined to comment on claims laid out in the report, and adidas reportedly turned down interview requests.
The Independent has contacted representatives for West and adidas for comment. Contact details for Wexler were not immediately available.
Following last year’s controversy, adidas announced West’s comments had “violated the company’s values” and it would “stop the adidas Yeezy business” with immediate effect”.
The statement read: “adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. 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.
“After a thorough review, the company has taken the decision to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies. adidas will stop the adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.”
Shortly after their deal was abandoned, West – now known as “Ye” – praised the Nazi leader in an interview with far-right radio host Alex Jones last December. When he shared an image of a swastika within a Star of David on social media, his X/Twitter account was suspended.
Earlier this year, the sportswear brand’s chief executive, Bjørn Gulden, claimed West “didn’t mean” his antisemitic remarks in 2022.
In a podcast interview last month, Gulden praised West’s creativity and expressed regret over the end of his partnership with adidas, calling it “one of the most successful collabs in history”.
Soon after, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt issued a statement, saying Gulden had apologised for his comments.
Gulden, who took over the reins at adidas after serving as CEO of rival brand Puma, called his comments a “misstatement” and reiterated that the decision to end their partnership with West “was the right one”.
“Our stance has not changed,” a statement issued on behalf of Gulden read.