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Adidas launches investigation into Yeezy employees’ allegations of bullying against Kanye West

By | Published on Friday 25 November 2022

Kanye West

Adidas has confirmed that it will launch an investigation into allegations of misconduct that have been made against Kanye West by people who worked on the rapper’s long-running Yeezy joint venture with the sportswear brand.

That joint venture was cancelled recently when West’s flurry of controversial interviews and statements made the alliance untenable, but – former employees say – Adidas bosses were previously willing to turn a blind eye to their superstar business partner’s bad behaviour.

Those former employees have expressed their grievances in a letter to Adidas bosses which has been seen by Rolling Stone.

In it they say that Adidas staff members who came into contact with West via the Yeezy JV had to deal with “years of verbal abuse, vulgar tirades and bullying attacks”, but management – although aware of this behaviour – “turned their moral compass off” and ignored that conduct, because, you know, that’s just “Kanye being Kanye”.

Rolling Stone reports: “Behind the scenes, [West] did more than test the boundaries of professionalism. Former Yeezy and Adidas staffers and creative collaborators claim that he played pornography to Yeezy staff in meetings; discussed porn and showed an intimate photograph of Kim Kardashian in job interviews; and showed an explicit video and photos of Kardashian as well as his own sex tapes to Yeezy team members”.

Meanwhile, the letter from the former employees states: “[West] has, in years past, exploded at women in the room with offensive remarks, and would resort to sexually disturbing references when providing design feedback. This type of response from a brand partner is one that Adidas employees should never be subjected to, nor should Adidas leadership ever tolerate”.

According to the Financial Times, in response to the Rolling Stone report, Germany’s third-largest asset manager, Union Investment, which has a one percent shareholding in Adidas, wrote to the company’s management team demanding clarity about the allegations. The finance firm’s Janne Werning also told the FT: “Adidas needs to disclose when the management and the supervisory board was first informed about the internal allegations”.

For its part, Adidas said in a statement yesterday: “It is currently not clear whether the accusations made in an anonymous letter are true. However, we take these allegations very seriously and have taken the decision to launch an independent investigation of the matter immediately to address the allegations”.

With the Yeezy/Adidas joint venture already cancelled, staff at the sportswear brand no longer have to deal with West anyway. However, this internal investigation – if it confirms the allegations made by the ex-employees – may nevertheless put pressure on Adidas, which is in the process of getting a new CEO. And it will likely make other companies wary of working with West, even if he manages to repair all the damage those recent controversies have done to his personal brand.