Adidas created a message chain called the ‘Yzy hotline’ to manage Kanye West, according to a new report.
The sportswear brand cut ties with West back in 2022, following a series of remarks from the rapper last year that were viewed as antisemitic. The two had collaborated on the Yeezy brand for years.
Now, according to a new report shared by the New York Times, a group of employees for Adidas supposedly started a text message chain to air out the problems in their collaboration.
Called the ‘Yzy hotline’, the chain began in 2018 and featured a number of executives and managers from the brand. It was reported by the outlet as an “ongoing effort to help Mr. West, contain him, or somehow do both.”
According to examples shared in the article, one manager wrote a message saying West “doesn’t understand how his money works and he only trusts adidas,” after having a call with the musician in 2019.
Other messages reported allegedly saw the employees become concerned with the musician’s “shifting, outsize expectations and his vehemence in their private dealings”, and saw Jim Anfuso – the general manager of the Yeezy unit – tell the executives that he favoured paying West to make a clean break.
It remains unclear whether the issues discussed on the ‘Yzy hotline’ ever reached Adidas’s supervisory board, and the New York Times confirmed that both a company spokeswoman and former CEO Kasper Rorsted declined to comment on the reports. West’s representatives have not yet commented on the allegations.
The outlet also added that Adidas’s publicly released annual reports reflected no discussion of problems in the Yeezy partnership until 2022.
Elsewhere in the report, current and former employees of Adidas and West claimed that the musician had reportedly been engaging in antisemitic behaviour since early meetings in 2013.
It claimed that the rapper apparently drew a swastika to express his displeasure, and told an Adidas colleague, Jon Wexler, to “hang a photo of Hitler in his kitchen and kiss it every day to practice unconditional love”. Wexler, Adidas’ then global director of entertainment and influencer marketing, is Jewish, and reportedly yelled at West for the remark.
Following West’s departure from Adidas, it was later revealed that the sportswear company would sell leftover Yeezys and donate a portion of the profits to charity.
In August, they announced the huge sale of the first batch of products, with money from the sales going towards organisations and charities supporting those most affected by the rapper’s comments.
Similarly, earlier this year, CEO Bjorn Gulden admitted that the sportswear company’s severed partnership with West and his Yeezy brand was “hurting” the business.
Gulden shared that sales were particularly affected in North America, which had seen a 20 per cent loss. The Yeezy loss also cut sales by €400m (£350 million) in the first quarter of 2023.
Last month, however, the business mogul did confirm in a podcast interview that he doesn’t think the rapper is “a bad person”.
“I think Kanye West is one of the most creative people in the world, both in music and what I would call street culture. He’s extremely creative,” he said. “I don’t think he meant what he said,” he added, referring to the seemingly antisemitic comments he made. “I don’t think he’s a bad person, it just came across that way.”