A new open letter from members of Yeezy and Adidas staff accuses Kanye West of using porn and “mind games” to bully and manipulate staff.
Earlier this month, a new report from Rolling Stone made claims surrounding employee treatment at Yeezy, with ex-workers alleging a “cult-like atmosphere” at the brand’s office.
Now, in a follow-up report, more former members of staff from Yeezy and Adidas – who had a deal with Kanye’s brand for nine years from 2013 until recently – have alleged manipulative behaviour from the under-fire rapper.
In a new open letter from previous senior members of staff at Yeezy and Adidas, one former senior Adidas employee claims that, at a 2017 meeting, Kanye asked her to “make me a shoe I can fuck,” while another potential collaborator alleges being invited to the rapper’s Hollywood Hills home to find him watching hardcore pornography and asking the designer’s opinion on it while “not laughing at all”.
According to the letter, pornography was a constant companion for Kanye, with one top Yeezy employee saying that Adidas execs warned him about this trait before they took the job, saying: “Hey, just so you know, there’s gonna be this whole porn-reference thing,” and a second executive saying, “It’s gonna catch you off guard the first time. I think he does it to catch people off guard.”
The employee added: “He would be in a meeting and he’d be talking to you, and he’d rattle off in his laptop” to play a porn video, the employee tells Rolling Stone. “And he’s like, ‘I know it’s uncomfortable, but I kind of need this in the background to keep me focused.’ And you’d be like, ‘Uhhhhh, oh-kay.’”
West reportedly also once told staff: “If you ever get stuck creatively, just watch porn for 10 minutes.”
According to Rolling Stone, the open letter – titled The Truth About Yeezy: A Call to Action for Adidas Leadership – was sent by former employees to board members and the CEO of Adidas, asking for “the toxic and chaotic environment that Kanye West created,” which included “a very sick pattern of predacious behaviour toward women,” to be stopped.
It read: “He has, in years past, exploded at women in the room with offensive remarks, and would resort to sexually disturbing references when providing design feedback. This type of response from a brand partner is one that Adidas employees should never be subjected to, nor should Adidas leadership ever tolerate.”
NME have reached out to Kanye West’s representatives and Adidas for comment.
In the letter, the staffers claim that Adidas executives “turned their moral compass off” despite being aware of Kanye’s “problematic behaviour”.
One former employee said: “There was no accountability. Difficult moments happened, with executives in the room — VP level or higher — and nothing would be done. You’d still show up to work the next day.”
Elsewhere in the open letter, it is alleged that Kanye wanted to “use his power to violate you in a quiet way and threaten your role and existence within the team,” claiming a “disturbingly” sexualised atmosphere at the Yeezy office and writing: “The most troubling behaviour that should have been flagged by the executive team very early in the partnership is his manipulative and fear-based approach to leading the team, all while trying to assert dominance over Adidas employees in closed rooms.”
Kanye West did not respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone, and NME have reached out to his representatives.
When contacted by NME, Adidas said: “Adidas does not tolerate hate speech and offensive behaviour and therefore has terminated the Adidas Yeezy partnership. We have been and continue to be actively engaged in conversations with our employees about the events that lead to our decision to end the partnership.
“They have our full support and as we’re working through the details of the termination, we have been clear that we want to keep our employees’ talent and skills within the organisation. Having said this, we will not discuss private conversations, details or events that lead to our decision to terminate the Adidas Yeezy partnership and decline to comment on any related speculation.”
Last month, Adidas ended its partnership with Kanye West and Yeezy over the rapper’s anti-Semitic comments. The German sportswear brand said in a statement: “Adidas does not tolerate anti-Semitism and any other sort of hate speech.
“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.”
Since then, Adidas has revealed it intends to sell Yeezy products without West’s branding, while West himself said he plans to sell Balenciaga, Adidas and Gap hoodies for $20 (£16.85) after each of the companies cut ties with him.