Big news out of adidas HQ yesterday. The global sportswear giant has finally cut ties with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after he made a series of antisemetic remarks on Twitter. The 45 year old artist tweeted earlier this month to make the violent remarks after accusing Sean “Diddy” Combs of being controlled by “the Jewish people” on his Instagram. All posts relating to the incident have now been deleted.
The artist has also been dropped by his talent agency, Balenciaga and JP Morgan, and GAP has removed all Yeezy GAP from their stores.
This is way past due. Brands should have cut ties with Ye a long time ago. From supporting Trump’s MAGA agenda, claiming slavery was a choice, to wearing a White Lives Matter t-shirt at Paris Fashion Week earlier this month, we can no longer just brush him off as ‘controversial’. And it looks like his brand partners have finally realised that too.
In a Press Release made yesterday, adidas announced their termination of the partnership with Ye, saying “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.” The brand claims to be prepared for short-term losses of €250 million by terminating the partnership.
We’re not naive. We know many brands still post vapid statements in support of issues they don’t truly back, from greenwashing, temporarily adopting rainbow logos during Pride Month to posting a black square after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 that catalysed Black Lives Matter protests worldwide.
Ultimately, cutting Ye may have a short term negative impact on brands’ bottom lines - but this is a long term business decision. Brands that consider the values of consumers, and align themselves with the same through their policies and actions, will be rewarded in this new era. Still though, we hope brands are making and will continue to make these changes because it’s right for the people and for the planet - not because it will help line their pockets through cultural clout.
But could this moment be marking a real, action-backed shift into the new age of accountability? Are we finally getting to a place where having power and clout doesn’t stop you from being held accountable?
We would be remiss if we didn’t consider Ye’s current mental state through his long timeline of controversy. In 2016, Ye was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, and some of his previous outbursts have been attributed to episodes of mania. Ye has always used his social media to facilitate his free speech, but as one of the most influential and famous men on the planet, this cannot excuse his repeatedly harmful and hateful behavior.
Call it cancel culture, or finally holding dangerously influential thought leaders responsible for their words and actions, there’s no escaping that brands need to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to who and what they align themselves with.
In our hyper connected world, drawing viral attention to issues like this is easier than ever. This, combined with new gen values that prioritise creating a safe and inclusive world, means that any form of hate will just not be tolerated. The new gen have tremendous spending power, and their loyalty can only be earned by brands that stand for something bigger than themselves. When brands overlook this, their descent into irrelevance (and ultimately financial ruin) can be sharp.
Brands and their ethics are no longer separate entities. Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives cannot live in a vacuum in your business. They are not buzzwords. The fall of Ye sends a message to all brands that they must re-evaluate their partnerships. This isn’t just about keeping your customers. It’s about doing what’s morally right, and affecting real change in a world that’s in crisis.
PS: It was hard to write this article without acknowledging the inherent bias that exists within cancel culture and accountability. We’re working on a bigger piece about this - email us with any thoughts hello@decode-mag
Rosie, Chelsea and Ruby x