Adidas launches probe into Ye’s alleged inappropriate behavior at Yeezy

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Adidas has launched an investigation into allegations that it turned a blind eye to inappropriate behavior from Ye while he was heading Yeezy and making shoes for the German sportswear giant.

The investigation comes after a Rolling Stone report detailed incidents of inappropriate and often sexualized treatment of staff by the rapper and fashion designer formally known as Kanye West. The report, which cited more than two dozen former Yeezy and Adidas staff, said Adidas was made aware of Ye’s “problematic behavior” but ignored the allegations and “turned their moral compass off.”

Adidas has already dropped Kanye West after his tirade of anti-Semitic and racist remarks in mid-November, which wiped out the entire valuation of Yeezy and trimmed $1.5 billion from Ye’s net worth. The acrimonious split between Adidas and Yeezy also left a mark on Adidas’ profit forecasts, which the company has had to slash twice by up to €250 million for the year.

Adidas says it initiated the probe after it received an anonymous letter that, according to Rolling Stone, came from several high-ranking employees for Yeezy. In it, the author or authors urged Adidas to address “the toxic and chaotic environment that Kanye West created” and “a very sick pattern of predacious behavior toward women.”

“This type of response from a brand partner is one that Adidas employees should never be subjected to, nor should Adidas leadership ever tolerate,” the letter says.

In a statement to Fortune, Adidas said that while it is unclear if the accusations are true, “We take these allegations very seriously and have taken the decision to launch an independent investigation of the matter immediately to address the allegations.”

The allegations

In the Rolling Stone report, former Yeezy and Adidas staffer claim Ye played pornography to Yeezy staff in meetings and showed intimate photographs of Kim Kardashian and sex tapes of himself with various women during meetings and job interviews. In the anonymous letter sent to Adidas, the former staffers also said that Ye has in the past years “exploded at women in the room with offensive remarks and would resort to sexually disturbing references when providing design feedback.”

While it is hard to imagine a boss showing porn in business meeting, in mid-October Ye himself posted a 30-minute documentary on YouTube showing such behavior. In the video, titled Last Week, Kanye is seen showing two Adidas executives a pornographic film while claiming that the voice of one of the porn actors resembles that of one of the executives, who dismisses the suggestion.

Asset management firm Union Investment, which owns a 0.76% stake in Adidas, wrote to the company to demand more information on these claims. “Adidas needs to disclose when the management and the supervisory board was first informed about the internal allegations,” Janne Werning, head of ESG capital markets and stewardship at Union Investment, said in a statement to Reuters.

Pete Fox, who served as the president of Yeezy in 2016, was the only person to speak on record in the Rolling Stone article, saying, “I never looked at porn with him or anything like that, but we would look at things together that maybe would be surprising to people.”

Fox also defended Ye, saying that, “In high fashion, there’s a lot of sexy, controversial things that maybe they reference or look at, as opposed to a company like Adidas where you would never show any nudity in a mood board.”

Since Adidas dropped Ye, it has replaced its CEO with Bjorn Gulden, the former chief executive officer of rival Puma. Gulden is due to take over in January to try and help the company recover from the Ye controversy as well as raise sales in China, which have faltered amid consumer boycotts of Western brands. 

As for Ye, the fashion designer has had few people to turn to since the controversy over his anti-Semitic and racist remarks. The talent agencies representing him—Creative Artists Agency and United Talent Agency—his lawyers at Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstreich, the fashion magazine Vogue, and the production company making his documentary, MRC entertainment, all severed ties with the artist. In addition, brands like Balenciaga, Gap, Foot Locker, and Sketchers all condemned Ye and refuse to work with him.

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