adidas Dropped Kanye West for the Wrong Reasons

Hold your applause.


Naomi Kales

While the ADL’s support of adidas’ move to drop artist Ye from their brand seemed well-intentioned and a statement against antisemitism, it is important to consider the motivation for adidas’ actions. adidas only dropped Ye when their stock greatly dropped, and it was not that they had not noticed, or cared about, his actions beforehand.
After a series of blatantly antisemitic Tweets, rapper Kanye West, or “Ye,” was dropped by many of his partnerships, including Balenciaga and Madame Tussauds. However, one of his largest partnerships, adidas, remained silent. adidas has said that their partnership with Ye has been “under review” since the beginning of October, although they continued to release Yeezys and planned to release new shoes in the week leading up to the anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre on Oct. 27, which was the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.
According to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the ADL reached out to adidas about dropping their partnership with Ye and stated that they would commend and support adidas in doing so, although they would not go quietly until adidas did drop Ye.
adidas did not drop Ye after the ADL first reached out, so the ADL launched a #RunAwayFromHate campaign. In this campaign, thousands of people sent emails and letters to adidas, celebrities reposted the ADL’s campaign, and other brands cut ties with Ye. adidas’ stock price dropped 23% over the month, and instead of keeping their partnership with Ye “under review,” they terminated it.
adidas was applauded for these actions, and adidas’ President of North America, Rupert Campbell, spoke at the ADL summit, Never Is Now, to condemn Ye’s antisemitism and affirm that this hate goes against their company’s mission. Greenblatt was in attendance wearing a pair of adidas Sambas that he had bought the day before.
I initially applauded these actions, although in conversation with my peers later in the conference, I began to rethink this. Should adidas be congratulated for dropping Ye even though they were the last brand to do so and only did so when they lost money? And how dedicated are they to fighting antisemitism when they continue to sell the ultra-recognizable Yeezys, just without the branding?
On one hand, I see adidas dropping Ye as progress toward combatting antisemitism. The #RunAwayFromHate campaign was successful, and Ye lost his billionaire status as a result of this loss. He had stated that adidas would never drop him, no matter how many antisemitic comments he made, and the condemnation of these comments by adidas certainly affirms that antisemitism does have consequences.
But on the other hand, adidas should not necessarily be applauded and praised. Their actions feel performative, and while performative activism is still activism, it is not what leads to progress. It is important to continue combatting antisemitism and speaking out against Kanye West, and adidas should continue to take a stand against antisemitism and other forms of hate to prove to the world that they actually care about these issues, not just their brand’s reputation and subsequent sales.