Demonstrators in Los Angeles showing support for Kanye West’s antisemitic remarks. Photo by CNN.
Tori Miller | News Editor
The rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, lost billions of dollars after spreading controversial hate online through antisemitic and white supremacist rhetoric. Adidas responded to Ye’s messages by deciding to cut ties with the rapper on Oct. 25, ending a nearly 10 year partnership responsible for creating the popular Yeezy sneakers.
“The thing about it being Adidas — I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” Ye said on the Drink Champs podcast.
In a statement, Adidas wrote: “Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”
Ye also made headlines at his Yeezy Paris Fashion Week show on Oct. 3 for wearing a shirt with the phrase “White Lives Matter” on its back, and featuring Black models in the shirt. The phrase is one associated with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the rapper has been facing backlash from both fans and celebrities online.
The controversial statements didn’t stop for Ye. He continued his comments on social media platforms, and used his Twitter following to continue direct hate towards the Jewish community. According to Billboard, the reaction from the public was swift, with several companies — including The Gap, Balenciaga, and more— following Adidas by terminating their relationships and brand deals with the rapper.
“I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” he tweeted Oct. 8. “The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew, also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.” The tweet was later taken down and his account was suspended for violating community guidelines– which raised questions about where freedom of speech begins and ends online.
An emergence of outrage and pressure toward Adidas emerged over the weekend, when hate groups appeared to use Ye’s celebrity status to advance their agendas, according to the Washington Post. On Saturday, an anti-Jewish group hung a banner over a Los Angeles highway overpass that read, “Honk if you know Kanye is right about the Jews,” while performing Nazi salutes to oncoming traffic. A picture of the incident went viral.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said Adidas’ decision was a “very positive outcome.”
“It illustrates that antisemitism is unacceptable and creates consequences. Without a doubt, Adidas has done the right thing by cutting ties with Ye after his vicious antisemitic rants,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “In the end, Adidas’ action sends a powerful message that antisemitism and bigotry have no place in society.”
Losing not only his billionaire status, Ye has also lost significant influence in the music industry. As the list of brands distancing themselves from Ye continues to grow, there are lingering questions about what his music will look like in the future and how streaming sites will proceed with sharing his music.
As of right now his music remains unaffected by his controversies. Music platforms such as YouTube, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify did not respond to questions about the future of Ye’s music.
Some professionals believe that Ye’s music will remain untouched by major music sites. Rutger Rosenborg, the marketing manager of Chartmetric– a music data analytics firm– said that most music consumers probably just care about whether they like the music or not instead of considering the artist. Any negative press coverage about an artist might just remind listeners about their music and Ye might be banking on that, according to Rosenborg.
Activists such as Liora Rez, executive director of watchdog organization StopAntisemitism.org, have different views on how Ye’s music should be handled moving forward.
“It’s now time for Apple Music and Spotify to reject antisemitism and drop Ye from their music libraries,” said Rez. “We want to set a precedent here — hate speech has consequences, and this is what happens when you spout antisemitism freely with no regard for the individuals you’re hurting.”
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