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Adidas says will work with ADL against antisemitism after Kanye West uproar

Athletics company pledges at least $1 million to partnership weeks after harsh criticism from Anti-Defamation League, which also announces acquisition of investor network JLens

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

President of Adidas North America Rupert Campbell speaks at an Anti-Defamation League summit in New York City, November 10, 2022. (Courtesy, ADL/Jen Liseo)
President of Adidas North America Rupert Campbell speaks at an Anti-Defamation League summit in New York City, November 10, 2022. (Courtesy, ADL/Jen Liseo)

NEW YORK — Adidas said Thursday it will partner with the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and hatred, after a major controversy over the company’s partnership with antisemite Kanye West.

The sportswear company severed its partnership with West, who now goes by Ye, after a heavy pressure campaign that involved the ADL and other Jewish groups.

The partnership with West accounted for a significant part of Adidas’s revenue and the company only cut ties with the hip-hop icon after other major companies did, and after a steep dip in the Adidas stock price.

Adidas North America President Rupert Campbell announced the joint effort with the ADL and spoke out against antisemitism in an address to the Jewish community at the annual ADL summit in New York City.

“There is no place for antisemitism, racism or hatred within sport, within Adidas or within society,” Campbell said, while acknowledging the company’s slow response to West’s anti-Jewish hate speech.

“We acknowledge that we don’t always get things right. We’re not perfect but in this case we know without a doubt that we made the right decision,” Campbell said.

“The racist and antisemitic hate speech by our former partner violated our values. We took action to begin dismantling the partnership. This took time given the complexity of the partnership but we remain committed to living our values,” Campbell said.

Kanye West, second from right, makes final rounds before the showing of the Kanye West Adidas Fall 2015 collection at Fashion Week in New York, Feb. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

“I want to say this loud and clear to everybody. We continue to stand with the Jewish community in the fight against antisemitism and all communities around the world who face injustice and discrimination,” he said.

ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt celebrated the new partnership by showing off a fresh pair of Samba sneakers.

“While I wish they did it sooner, Adidas, to their credit, made it abundantly clear that they would not do business with bigots,” Greenblatt said.

The ADL told The Times of Israel that the new formal partnership with Adidas will include initiatives focused on reducing prejudice through education, including curricula for school athletes and other students; bringing together sports leaders and professional athletes for anti-hate collaboration; and making electronic educational materials more available to the public.

The partnership will extend for at least four years and includes a commitment of at least $1 million from Adidas.

Late last month, before Adidas dropped West, the ADL publicly pushed the company to sever the relationship.

“It is incumbent on Adidas to do the right thing and condemn Kanye West’s antisemitism, re-evaluate their partnership, and be a leader against this hatred,” Greenblatt said then, highlighting the company’s Nazi history. He applauded the company days later when it announced cutting ties with West.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO & National Director Jonathan Greenblatt (Courtesy)

At the Saturday summit, titled “Never is Now,” Greenblatt attributed some of the rising antisemitism in the US to “entertainers with messiah complexes.”

Besides West, the NBA star Kyrie Irving has promoted an antisemitic film in recent weeks and avoided renouncing antisemitism. Amazon has come under pressure to remove the film, which has surged in popularity on its platforms.

Greenblatt at the summit blasted “major streaming platforms that are little more than the kind of propaganda that Goebbels would lovingly approve.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a speech to the summit also linked some recent antisemitic incidents to “misguided celebrities and athletes.”

“All of these incidents [were] because antisemitic tropes and beliefs were promoted by famous people. Last year we saw the highest number of antisemitic incidents on record in the United States,” Adams said. “This is the uncomfortable truth about hate in our society. It is being normalized and it is being spread from one community to the next.”

“People are learning to hate again,” Adams said. Jews are the group most targeted in hate crimes in New York City.

Also Thursday, the ADL said it had acquired the Jewish investor network JLens, which acts against anti-Israel bias and antisemitism in the financial sphere.

JLens spearheaded the push against anti-Zionism at Morningstar, a major investment firm in the US that eventually took a number of steps to ensure fair treatment of Israel in its ranks.

Anti-Zionism in the investing world has been a growing concern for Israel advocacy groups, particularly in the progressive environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing sphere.

“ESG should not be a Trojan horse for antisemitism,” Greenblatt said.

“BDS activists are trying to hijack the ESG movement,” and corporations including Ben & Jerry’s have gotten on board, Greenblatt said. “I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of what could be a much bigger wave.”

JLens said the field of values-based investing is estimated to amount to $53 trillion dollars by 2025, or a third of all global investment assets.

“It became clear to us that JLens would need increased backing in order to be truly impactful in this arena that convenes trillions in investment capital and influences the behavior of powerful companies,” JLens said.

“This partnership will strengthen JLens’ ability to advocate on behalf of Jewish communal concerns and expand ADL’s participation in the ESG movement and efforts to fight anti-Israel and antisemitic policies in this field,” JLens said.

The ADL this week also announced a partnership with the BBYO youth movement to head off campus antisemitism.

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