LOS ANGELES: Sportswear giant Adidas was under growing pressure Monday to sever ties with Kanye West after a series of anti-Semitic outbursts by the controversial rapper.
Human rights campaigners called out the German firm for its continued silence over comments by West — known formally as Ye — that have made him more and more isolated from the businesses and brands that have made him fabulously wealthy.
“Thousands of signatures, and still no word, @adidas ? Your silence is a danger to Jews,” tweeted Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
“We can’t let Ye’s #antisemitism become normalized – we all need to demand Adidas #RunAwayFromHate by condemning his racist rhetoric & re-evaluating their partnership.”
The company said this month it was reviewing its relationship with West after he appeared at a fashion show in Paris wearing a shirt with the slogan “White Lives Matter.”
The phrase is a dog whistle to right-wing groups in the United States and a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Days later he was locked out of Twitter and Instagram for threatening to “Go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”
Over the weekend a banner was hoisted over a busy Los Angeles freeway that read “Kanye is right about the Jews” and “Honk if you know.”
Several activists were photographed making “Heil Hitler” salutes.
On Monday, one of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies, CAA, said it was dropping West.
Film and TV producer MRC said it was shelving an already-finished documentary about West.
“We cannot support any content that amplifies his platform,” the company said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Other leading figures in entertainment, including Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel called on all companies to cut ties with West.
“Those who continue to do business with West are giving his misguided hate an audience,” Emanuel wrote in the Financial Times. “There should be no tolerance anywhere for West’s anti-Semitism.”
Last week Paris-based fashion house Balenciaga ended ties with West, saying it “no longer (has) any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist.”
West’s ex-wife Kim Kardashian appeared to be joining the pile-on, though her tweet did not mention the father of her children by name.
“Hate speech is never OK or excusable,” she wrote on Twitter and Instagram on Monday.
“I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate end.”
Adidas did not immediately reply Monday to queries from AFP.
The company, whose founders had ties to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, announced several weeks ago that it was reviewing its relationship with West after he reportedly became disgruntled with how the brand was marketing his products.
“After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review,” Adidas said in a statement in early October.
West had accused Adidas of arranging marketing events and bringing back older styles without his approval.
He also said the brand had hired staff to work under him and organised a “Yeezy Day” without his involvement.
The artist was associated with Nike for years but broke away in 2013, lending his name to Adidas as they launched their first Yeezy shoe together in 2015 – a partnership that went on to make him a billionaire.
Along with Beyonce, Stella McCartney and Pharrell Williams, West has been one of the top names used by Adidas to boost sales, especially online.
Announcing the review, Adidas did not mention recent tensions, but said its partnership with the rapper had been “one of the most successful collaborations in our industry’s history” and was “rooted in mutual respect and shared values.”
West, who half-heartedly ran for president of the US in 2020, has spoken openly about his struggles with mental illness, but his erratic behaviour has continued to raise concerns.