Adidas CEO said to apologize for defending Kanye West’s antisemitic outbursts

Anti-Defamation League head says Bjorn Gulden has sent him an email, expressing regret for claiming rapper didn’t mean what he said and isn’t a ‘bad person’

Then-Puma CEO Bjorn Gulden attends the 2019 Footwear News Achievement Awards at the IAC Building on December 3, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Then-Puma CEO Bjorn Gulden attends the 2019 Footwear News Achievement Awards at the IAC Building on December 3, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

AP — The head of the Anti-Defamation League said in a post on X on Thursday that he was in touch with Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden who apologized for his recent remarks defending Kanye West and reiterated the sportswear company’s fight to end antisemitism.

ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s comments on X followed Gulden’s remarks on an investing podcast called “Good Company” where he doubted that Ye, the US artist formerly known as Kanye West, “meant what he said” when he made a series of antisemitic and other offensive remarks last year.

“I think Kanye West is one of the most creative people in the world,” Gulden said in an episode released September 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 off that way.”

Gulden took over as CEO last January.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Thursday, Adidas confirmed that the company had been in touch with ADL. It didn’t offer any details on the conversation between Greenblatt and Gulden but it linked back to Greenblatt’s comment on X.

“Our decision to end our partnership with Ye because of his unacceptable comments and behavior was absolutely the right one,” Adidas said. “Our stance has not changed: Hate of any kind has no place in sports or society, and we remain committed to fighting it.”

Kanye West, known as Ye, watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Washington Wizards and the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch issued a statement earlier on Thursday, calling on Gulden to “set the record” straight and demonstrate that the company is taking antisemitism seriously.

“Antisemitism can never be rationalized,” he said.

Almost a year ago, Adidas ended a major partnership with Ye over his statements, discontinued Ye’s line of Yeezy shoes and moved up the planned departure of its CEO. In a statement at that time, the company said it “does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech.” It added: “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.”

For weeks prior to his rupture with the sneaker company, Ye had made antisemitic comments in interviews and social media, including an October Twitter post in which he said he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” an apparent reference to the US defense readiness condition scale known as DEFCON.

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