Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said Thursday his company has not had any discussions about ending its affiliation with rapper Kanye West after his controversial comments about slavery.
“Kanye has been, and is, a very important part of our strategy and has been a fantastic creator,” Rorsted said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “I’m not going to comment on every comment he or somebody else [is] making.”
Adidas is under pressure to drop West after the rapper suggested Tuesday during an interview on “TMZ Live” that slavery “sounds like a choice.” An online petition asking Adidas to cut ties with West had garnered nearly 8,000 signatures as of early Thursday.
“While Kanye can live safely in his multi-million dollar castle, the rest of black America is continually marginalized and subject to unjust laws and treatment. Some even die because this behavior is so ingrained in our society,” the petition reads. “The German apparel company may wish to rethink their lucrative deal with West after his jaw-dropping outburst.”
West has been affiliated wtih Adidas since 2013 and designs the high-end Yeezy models that Adidas only offers in limited runs. Rorsted said Yeezy isn’t a large source of revenue for his company but said it’s important for “brand heat.”
“Kanye and the Yeezyis are a very important part of our brand, from a revenue standpoint less so, but it’s a very important part of how we promote our products, particularly in the U.S. and other parts of the world,” Rorsted said.
But Rorsted also said he didn’t agree with what West said.
“It is clear there are some remarks that we don’t support,” he said in a separate conference call for journalists.
When asked if it was important for Adidas to take some kind of stance on West’s slavery comments, Rorsted said, “Of course it is.”
But he also added, “We are a sports company and want to change people’s lives through sports,” Rorsted deadpanned.
Rorsted said the issue of West’s comments had not been discussed internally. He also said he had not spoken to West in the last 24 hours.
Adidas has partnered with West since 2013, and expanded their relationship in 2016, calling it “the most significant partnership ever created between a non-athlete and an athletic brand.”
Rorsted took questions about West during the company’s quarterly results call, which showed robust growth for the company, particularly in the U.S.
Sales rose 21 percent in North America, while Nike reported a 6 percent decline in North American sales for its most recent quarter and Under Armor reported flat sales for its most recent quarter.
Last Quarter, Reported Revenue in North America
Nike: $3.78 Billion
Adidas: $1.04 Billion
Under Armour: $867 million
Under Armour -1%
The incredible swing for adidas continues…
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 3, 2018
Despite the positive bottom line, Bloomberg’s Andrea Felsted believes dropping West would be a smart move, saying his contribution to the company’s bottom line isn’t worth the risk of keeping him amid the controversy.
“The West association, which started in 2013, certainly helped breathe life back into Adidas at a time when it was trailing Nike,” Felsted wrote. “But it looks like a liability now.”
West’s comments about slavery, on the heels of his recent Twitter comments supporting President Donald Trump, have triggered angry responses from some in the African-American community. Despite that pushback, a Reuters survey found that Trump’s approval ratings among black Americans nearly doubled after West began defending the president and other African-American conservatives.
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