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Yeezy Roller Coaster Ended With Two-Minute Phone Call at Adidas

Their lucrative Yeezy collaboration accounted for more than an estimated 40% of the shoe giant’s profits. But the partners had been bickering for years.



Photo illustration: 731; photographer: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

From the beginning, there were plenty of warning signs that Adidas AG’s collaboration with the rapper Ye was destined for debacle. But for anyone still unsure of the trajectory, the wake-up call came on the morning of May 3, 2018. Kanye West, as he was then called, had just suggested to celebrity gossip site TMZ’s newsroom that Black people in America had made a choice to remain in slavery for 400 years. Amid the outcry, Adidas’s shares plunged, calls for boycotting its sneakers grew, and Chief Executive Officer Kasper Rorsted appeared to do all he could to avoid tackling the subject head on. In a Bloomberg TV interview that day to discuss Adidas’s recent earnings, Rorsted said he wouldn’t speculate about every statement from all of his company’s external partners. “He’s been a fantastic creator,” Rorsted said, “and that’s where I’m going to leave it.”

Except Rorsted couldn’t leave it at that—not for a minute of TV time, much less for the four years leading up to this fall. Had there been any talk at Adidas within the past 24 hours, a TV anchor wanted to know, about cutting ties with the rapper and designer?