Adidas Knew—Kanye Drew Swastikas, Praised Hitler In Company Meetings Dating Back to 2013, New York Times Report Reveals

Adidas knew Kanye was antisemitic
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Adidas knew Kanye was antisemitic
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Photo Credit: Om Kamath

A new report reveals Kanye West’s antisemitism surfaced in some of the first meetings he had with Adidas execs when establishing the lucrative sneaker deal.

The latest Ye bombshell comes from New York Times reporter Megan Twohey, who traveled across the country to speak with current and former Adidas employees about the partnership. In 2013, the sportswear brand signed a partnership with Kanye, giving him a team meeting to discuss their first moves. An array of sneakers were lined up for the rapper to inspect. “To convey how offensive he considered the designs, he grabbed a sketch of a shoe and took a marker to the toe,” the report reveals. Kanye drew a swastika on the shoes.

The partnership forged ahead and became a $1 billion-dollar industry for Adidas, until October 2022 when he began making inflammatory antisemitic remarks online and during podcast appearances. He tweeted that he would go “deathcon three on Jewish people”,” and said he was worth too much to Adidas for them to end the partnership. While Adidas appeared to languish over the decision to part ways, it eventually came to a head.

“When [Kanye] exploded in bitter outbursts at Adidas managers, the company typically sought not to reign him in but to appease him,” the report reads. “In negotiations over the years, Adidas kept sweetening the deal, doubling down on its investments and tethering its fortunes more closely to him.”

Despite verbally abusing his Adidas handlers, the company did little to address employee complaints about his behavior. Many employees raised concerns that his behavior could tarnish the brand, but executives swept those concerns under the rug. Their eye was on catching up to Nike in sales, which has long dominated the sneaker market. One Adidas executive said working with Kanye was precisely the point, because he is a “master of spectacle.”

According to the report, West told a Jewish Adidas manager to kiss a photo of Hitler every day. In another meeting in 2019, he reportedly hurled shoes around the room. That didn’t stop Adidas from offering the rapper $100 million annually for ‘Yeezy marketing’ officially, but it appears to be little more than payment to keep Kanye happy. Ye also collected a 15% royalty payment on net sales with at least $3 million guaranteed, but the shoes far outsold that stipend.

In 2016, Adidas tried to protect itself with a morals clause to his new contract, which would allow the company to end the deal over reputation threatening behaviors.

Scooter Braun represented Kanye West in those negotiations arguing that only a criminal offense like shooting someone would be cause for Adidas to terminate its partnership with his client. But Adidas executives would not back down. Kanye finally conceded to the new contract terms for termination which included:

  • felony conviction
  • bankruptcy
  • 30 consecutive days of mental health or substance abuse treatment
  • anything that brings “disrepute, contempt, scandal” to Adidas

The contract signed in 2016 also offered Kanye a dedicated team of Adidas professionals at the Portland, Oregon headquarters. The contract stipulated that arrangement could be extended for up to a decade if the partnership met its financial targets.

Following the signing of that new contract, Kanye’s public appearances took a turn. He began publicly praising President-elect Donald Trump, insinuated Jay-Z sent killers after him, and began canceling public performances. His relationship with Kim Kardashian also unraveled alongside his bid for the 2020 Presidental election.