What to Know About Kanye West’s Anti-Semitic Remarks—and the Companies That Have Cut Ties

8 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, has been attracting negative attention and mounting calls for companies to cut ties with him following several weeks of troubling statements, many of them anti-Semitic. The ongoing wave of offensive speech began at Paris Fashion Week at the beginning of this month and continued with unaired footage from an interview with Tucker Carlson, false statements made during a podcast appearance about the cause of George Floyd’s death, and recent anti-Semitic remarks made on social media. Those remarks appear to have emboldened a group of demonstrators to hold a sign over a Los Angeles freeway that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews” while giving a Nazi salute, according to photos.

The comments he made on Twitter and during his since-deleted podcast interview with Drink Champs—where he made unfounded claims that Jewish people hold immeasurable power in media—have gotten him locked out of his Twitter and Instagram accounts, and prompted a slew of companies to cut ties with him. He has been posting instead on Parler, the right-wing social media app he has announced plans to buy.

On Oct. 24, Adidas announced it had ended its partnership with West. On Tuesday, it was announced that West had been dropped by his talent agency, CAA, and studio executives at MRC announced on Monday that they would be shelving a recently completed documentary. “We cannot support any content that amplifies his platform,” the executives wrote in a joint memo released this morning. On Oct. 27, the shoe company Skechers released a statement which said that they had escorted West off the premises of their office building after he showed up unannounced. They said they have no intention of working with him.

After Ye’s access to his Instagram account was reinstated, he began uploading posts, responding to the multiple companies that are no longer working with him, “Ari Emanuel,” his post reads, in reference to the CEO of Endeavor Talent Agency who spoke out against West’s statements. “This is love speech. I still love you. God still loves you. The money is not who I am. The people is who I am.” West also claimed to have lost $2 billion in one day.

West has exhibited erratic behavior and combative statements for several years, and he has said that he struggles with mental health issues. But after he and his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, got divorced earlier this year, his posts became more frequent and controversial.

Here’s a brief history of West’s problematic behavior and an overview of how companies with business ties to him have responded.

Years of problematic statements

The rapper’s pattern of sharing particularly controversial opinions began in May 2018 when he appeared on TMZ and made comments that “slavery was a choice.” In October that same year, he surprised many fans by showing his support for President Donald Trump, visiting him in the Oval Office. He continued to make head-turning statements, including announcing his campaign for president in 2019. Earlier this year, when his relationship with Kardashian was coming to an end, his acting out on social media escalated once more. He harassed Kardashian and her then boyfriend, Pete Davidson, online in February. West encouraged fans to yell at Davidson, rapped about him, and gave him the nickname “Skete.”

After Davidson and Kardashian broke up, West began focusing his attention elsewhere. During his Yeezy fashion show in Paris earlier this month, he wore a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt along with conservative commentator Candace Owens and at least one model, leading many in the fashion industry to condemn his actions. On his now-restricted Instagram account, West made disparaging comments about Adidas, the company that manufactures and distributes his Yeezy line, and later went on to appear on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where he made baseless claims about abortion and made fatphobic comments about Lizzo on the show as well as in unaired footage that was later made public.

On Oct. 9, West tweeted that he was going to go “death con 3” on Jewish people, in reference to the defense system used by the United States to signal military defense, and argued that he isn’t anti-Semitic because “black people are actually Jew[s] also,” leading his account to be locked.

On Oct. 11, VICE’s Motherboard published leaked, unaired video from his interview with Carlson in which he says “Jew” is in reference to “the 12 lost tribes of Judah … who the people known as the race Black really are.” He also falsely states that Planned Parenthood was created to “control the Jew population.” West may have been referencing Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s belief in eugenics, which the organization denounces.

This past week, he continued to double down on his antisemitic comments in interviews with Chris Cuomo and Piers Morgan.

Brands sever ties with Ye

Company after company has decided that West has finally reached a level of volatility that they can no longer justify working with. West recently hired Camille Vasquez, who served as Johnny Depp’s lawyer in his defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard. But after he refused to walk back his anti-Semitic comments, Vasquez reportedly dropped him as a client.

One of the biggest brands to cut ties with Ye is Balenciaga. The clothing brand, helmed by creative director Demna, slowly began removing references to Ye from their site—including to their collaboration, the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga line. They issued a statement to Women’s Wear Daily, stating, “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist.”

Vogue also vowed not to work with the rapper since Ye berated editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson online after she criticized his controversial Yeezy fashion show in Paris. Page Six reported that a representative for the magazine provided a statement that editor-in-chief Anna Wintour will not work with him again.

In wake of his recent comments, West’s G.O.O.D. Music label is no longer a part of Def Jam music group, the New York Times reports, and his music has seen a marked decrease in streaming numbers.

Gap also joined the slew of brands that are no longer working with West, but the termination of their deal actually originated from West’s lawyer. West blasted Gap on social media, alleging that the brand was taking his designs and not crediting him and excluding him from the creative process. In September, The Wall Street Journal reported that Gap “left [Ye] no choice but to terminate their agreement,” according to a letter from his lawyers informing the clothing company of the decision.

Adidas finally terminates its relationship with Ye

On Oct. 25, Adidas announced that the company was terminating its relationship with West following deafening calls from the public to take a stand. The sportswear brand’s relationship with Ye was already strained. The company released a statement to CNBC on Oct. 6, stating, “After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review.” “We will continue to co-manage the current product during this period.” On Oct. 10, West posted a 30-minute documentary to YouTube titled, “LAST WEEK.” He can be seen showing the executives at Adidas pornography to make them feel “the same discomfort” he felt having his designs allegedly stolen by them.

The Anti-Defamation League shared an open letter to Adidas on Oct. 20, urging the company to sever ties with Ye. The letter reads: “We urge Adidas to reconsider supporting the Ye product line and to issue a statement making clear that the Adidas company and community has no tolerance whatsoever for antisemitism.” Despite mounting pressure, the company has so far remained silent until now.

The company said the termination of their partnership will deal a financial blow of €250 million ($246 million) to their fourth-quarter sales.

Adidas released a statement which read, in part: “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.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com