Thursday, September 21, 2023 – Bjørn Gulden, Chief Executive of Adidas, has lamented the end of the company’s partnership with Kanye West over the rapper’s anti-Semitic comments in October 2022.
In defense of West, Gulden said: “I don’t think he meant what he said.”
Recall that in 2022, West took to X (formerly Twitter) to post that he was “going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.
He added: “You guys have toyed with me and tried to blackball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”
On Instagram, he posted a screenshot of a conversation with Diddy, where he wrote: “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.”
Earlier that month of October 2022, Ye had caused further anger by including T-shirts with the slogan White Lives Matter in a Yeezy fashion show in Paris.
Due to Kanye’s posts, Adidas ended a creative partnership with Ye that had begun in 2015, saying his comments were “unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness”.
In December, Ye caused further outrage after posting an image of a swastika blended with the Star of David to X and praising Adolf Hitler and Nazis in an interview with Infowars host Alex Jones.
“I see good things about Hitler,” said Ye. “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler … [Nazis] did good things too.”
He added: “There’s a lot of things that I love about Hitler.”
Now, speaking on the Norwegian podcast, In Good Company, Gulden addressed the end of Kanye’s partnership with Adidas, which occurred prior to Gulden’s tenure which began in January 2023 after he left Puma.
He said: “I think Kanye West is one of the most creative people in the world. Both in music and what I call street culture. So he’s extremely creative and has together with Adi created a Yeezy line that was very successful. And then, as creative people, he made some statements, which wasn’t that good. And that caused Adi to break the contract and withdraw the product. 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.
“That meant we lost that business. One of the most successful collabs in history – very sad. But again, when you work with third parties, that could happen. It’s part of the game. That can happen with an athlete, it can happen with an entertainer. It’s part of the business.”
After cutting ties with Kanye, Adidas was left with more than £1bn of unsold Yeezy stock. In May 2023, Gulden announced plans for the stock, saying it would be sold but with a “significant amount” of proceeds handed to groups which combat hate speech, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Philonise & Keeta Floyd Institute for Social Change (run by the family of George Floyd) and the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism. At the time, Gulden said: “There is no place in sport or society for hate of any kind and we remain committed to fighting against it.”