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Adidas CEO says Kanye West didn’t mean antisemitic remarks, isn’t a bad person

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Shoes are offered for sale at an Adidas store in Chicago, Feb. 10, 2023.
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Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden defended Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, and said the rapper didn’t mean it when he made a series of antisemitic remarks.

In a conversation on philanthropist Nicolai Tangen’s podcast “In Good Company,” Gulden was asked about the retailer’s partnership with Ye and how its Yeezy collaboration fell apart. 

“He did some statements, which wasn’t that good and that caused Adi to break the contract and withdraw the product,” Gulden said on the program, which aired Sept. 12

“Very unfortunate because I don’t think he meant what he said and I don’t think he’s a bad person — it just came across that way,” he added.

Last fall, the German sneaker giant announced it was ending its highly lucrative partnership with Ye and pulling Yeezy products from its shelves after he made a series of widely criticized antisemitic remarks. 

“I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” Ye wrote in a since deleted post on Oct. 9.

Following widespread public outcry, Adidas announced it had ended its relationship with Ye, stopped production of Yeezy-branded products and ended all payments to Ye and his companies. 

Foot Locker and Gap soon followed suit and announced they would pull Yeezy products from their stores.

Gulden, who was named CEO of Adidas about a month after the scandal unfolded, called the company’s breakup with Ye “very sad” because it meant that the retailer “lost that business,” which he described as one of the most successful collaborations in history. 

“You know when you work with third parties, that could happen and you know it’s part of the game. That can happen with an athlete, it can happen with an entertainer, so it’s part of the business,” said Gulden. 

Earlier in the show, Gulden called Ye “one of the most creative people in the world,” both in terms of music and street culture. 

Despite the public comments from its chief executive, an Adidas spokesperson told CNBC that the company’s position on Ye “has not changed.”

Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden defended Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, and said the rapper didn’t mean it when he made a series of antisemitic remarks.

“Ending the partnership was appropriate,” the spokesperson said.

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