Adidas to investigate claims Kanye West showed pornography to staff

<span>Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP</span>
Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

The sportswear giant Adidas is to launch an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct made this week against the US rapper and fashion designer Kanye West, including that he showed pornography to staff at company meetings.

The claims by unidentified staff at Yeezy and Adidas, which surfaced in a Rolling Stone article on Tuesday, included allegations that the musician, who has changed his name to Ye, showed an intimate picture of his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, in job interviews, and that his “problematic behavior” was overlooked by Adidas management.

Staff allegations included in a letter to Adidas obtained by the outlet included claims that Adidas “turned their moral compass off” and failed to protect employees from “years of verbal abuse, vulgar tirades, and bullying attacks”.

Adidas said in a statement on Thursday that “it is currently not clear whether the accusations made in an anonymous letter are true” but that it took the claims “very seriously” and had “taken the decision to launch an independent investigation of the matter immediately to address the allegations”.

The sportswear brand initially said it would not “discuss private conversations, details or events that lead to our decision to terminate the Adidas Yeezy partnership” but it had “been and continue[d] to be actively engaged in conversations with our employees about the events that led to our decision to end the partnership”.

In one alleged 2017 incident, Ye yelled at a senior female member of the design team that a Yeezy sneaker was not up to standards. West reportedly looked down at his foot, and up at the employee, and said: “I want you to make me a shoe I can fuck.”

Analysts estimate that the Yeezy partnership accounts for 7% of the group’s revenue. Adidas has said it believes losing Yeezy will halve its expected profits this year. It is not yet clear if Adidas will continue to sell the designs, which the company owns, without Yeezy’s logo, which it does not.

The decision to launch an inquiry comes after one of Adidas’ largest shareholders, Union Investment, demanded clarity about the alleged incidents. Last month Adidas abandoned a licensing and design contract with Ye after he made antisemitic threats.

Janne Werning, head of ESG capital markets and stewardship at Union Investment, which holds a 1% stake in Adidas, told the Financial Times: “Adidas needs to disclose when the management and the supervisory board was first informed about the internal allegations.”