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Kanye West's Startling Conduct Unveiled: Swastikas, Meeting Porn, and More in Adidas Partnership's Downfall

Kanye West (right) with Adidas CMO Eric Liedtke
Kanye West's tumultuous partnership with Adidas, which ended in October 2022, was marked by a series of shocking revelations and controversial behavior, according to an extensive investigation by The New York Times. The artist, who now goes by Ye, left a trail of problematic conduct, but Adidas continued to support him due to the immense profits his Yeezy shoe designs generated.

The Times investigation revealed startling incidents that shed light on West's behavior. During an early meeting with Adidas designers in 2013, he shocked the room by rejecting design ideas and drawing a swastika on a shoe, a move that appalled the Germans present. Adding to the disquiet, the meeting took place near Nuremberg, known for Nazi war crime trials.

West's obsession with the Nazi era extended further when he advised a Jewish manager at Adidas to kiss a portrait of Adolf Hitler daily. He even praised Hitler's use of propaganda. The artist's erratic behavior included bringing pornography to meetings and making inappropriate sexual remarks. In one instance, he compelled Adidas executives to watch porn during a meeting in his Manhattan apartment.

The investigation also revealed West's frequent emotional outbursts, crying, and anger during meetings, often creating a tense atmosphere. In 2019, he moved his shoe design operations to Cody, Wyoming, and insisted that the Adidas team relocate. During a meeting with executives, he threw shoes around the room in frustration.

Adidas was willing to tolerate West's behavior, given the success of the Yeezy brand, which was integral to the company's competition with Nike. Yeezy sales exceeded $1 billion annually, capturing the attention of young American consumers.

Adidas managers established a "Yzy hotline" text group to discuss West's conduct and rotated managers to manage him more effectively. Over time, Adidas improved the terms of West's contract, offering him more favorable royalty percentages, upfront payments, and funds for marketing. But as public awareness of his problematic remarks and actions grew, Adidas decided to terminate the partnership.

This decision led to the company's first annual loss in decades, while West's net worth plummeted. Adidas was left with the challenge of handling the remaining $1.3 billion in Yeezy products. It eventually decided to sell the products in batches, directing some proceeds to charity and retaining most profits.

Adidas stated it "has no tolerance for hate speech and offensive behavior," justifying its termination of the Adidas Yeezy partnership, while West declined interview requests and did not provide a comment.

The Times investigation drew from access to previously undisclosed internal records, offering a comprehensive view of the troubled partnership.

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