Jaylen Brown (forward for the Boston Celtics) and Aaron Donald (defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams) have both announced their exits from Kanye West’s athletic agency, Donda Sports, following the rapper’s recent string of antisemitic and racist comments.
Brown’s leave marks as a quick 180 for the basketballer, who on Monday (October 24) said he would remain signed to Donda Sports, but stood against West’s inflammatory opinions. Speaking to the Boston Globe, he expressed that although he doesn’t “condone any hurt, harm, or danger toward any group of people or individuals whatsoever”, he remained committed to the values he saw Donda Sports representing.
“The reason why I signed with Donda Sports,” he said, “it represented education, it represented activism, disruption, it represented single-parent households, and a lot more people are involved in something like that.
“A lot of people that I work with, work with their families, build love and respect for, spending time in the summer. A lot of people involved. That’s what the organisation from my vantage point from Donda Sports represented. I think it continues to represent that.”
Brown expectedly faced backlash for his decision. In a new statement shared on Twitter, he explained that in the hours since his Globe interview went live, he’s reflected on the situation and come to a different conclusion.
“In the past 24 hours, I’ve been able to reflect and better understand how my previous statements lack clarity in expressing my stance against recent insensitive public remarks and actions,” Brown wrote. “For that, I apologize. And in this, I seek to be as clear as possible.
“I have always, and will always, continue to stand strongly against any antisemitism, hate speech, misrepresentation, and oppressive rhetoric of any kind. In light of that, after sharing in conversations, I now recognize that there are times when my voice and my position can’t coexist in spaces that don’t correspond with my stance or my values. And, for that reason, I am terminating my association with Donda Sports.
“I do seek to continue providing mentorship, love, and support to the incredible children, faculty, and young athletes with whom I’ve been grateful to form bonds and relationships with during my time with Donda Academy.”
— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) October 25, 2022
Within the same hour as Brown’s statement being posted, Donald too announced on Twitter that he would step back from Donda Sports. In a joint statement between himself and his wife, Erica, the footballer wrote that West’s “recent comments and displays of hate and antisemitism are the exact opposite of how we choose to live our lives and raise our children”.
He continued: “We find them to be irresponsible and go against everything we believe in as a family. As parents and members of society, we felt a responsibility to send a clear message that hateful words and actions have consequences and that we must do better as human beings. We do not feel our beliefs, voices and actions belong anywhere near a space that misrepresents and oppresses people of any background, ethnicity or race.
“We’ve had the pleasure of working with many incredible people along the way and hope to continue to use our platform to uplift and support other families, children and communities through positive outreach.”
— AD_99 (@AaronDonald97) October 25, 2022
Brown and McDonald were the first two athletes signed to Donda Sports, which was formally launched back in May. Last month, West filed a number of new trademarks to expand the agency’s accompanying fashion line. The rapper is yet to address his only two signees leaving the agency.
Furthermore, the news comes within of hours of West being dropped by Adidas, after the company faced pressure to end its lucrative sneaker deal with West. As a result of the rapper having ties severed with Adidas – as well as Def Jam, JP Morgan Chase, Balenciaga and his lawyer and booking agency – West’s net worth has reportedly plummeted from $2billion (£1.3billion) to $400million (£348million).
West’s recent deluge of controversies stemmed from a stunt at this year’s Paris Fashion Week, where he wore a shirt emblazoned with the white nationalist dogwhistle “White Lives Matter”. He was heavily criticised for the tone-deaf move, leading the rapper to double, triple and quadruple down on his viewpoint. In the process – publicly responding to a call-out from Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs – West made an antisemitic comment on Instagram, after which he was booted from the platform.
He then took to Twitter, where he too made an antisemitic comment and was swiftly banned. His antisemitism was loudly condemned by a slew of celebrities, politicians and organisations, including Jack Antonoff, John Legend, Elon Musk, David Schwimmer, KISS’ Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, Howard Stern, Eric André and his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian.
Also this month, it was reported that an episode of LeBron James’ talk show, The Shop, would not air a filmed interview with West after he spouted more antisemitism during the taping. Around the same time, Vice leaked unaired footage from West’s Fox News interview, where he also made racist and antisemitic comments; the station has publicly rescinded its support for the rapper.
West was, however, given further airtime on the Drinks Champ podcast, where he made inflammatory comments on the death of George Floyd, hit out at rival Pete Davidson and claimed that Ice Cube influenced his antisemitism (a claim Ice Cube has denied). The interview was later scrubbed from the web, and host N.O.R.E. expressed “regret” over his complacency in the situation. In the wake of that interview, Floyd’s family began preparing a defamation lawsuit against West.
In another TV interview, West said he didn’t believe in the term “antisemitism”. Speaking to Piers Morgan (who he referred to as “a Karen”), he said he knew his antisemitic comments were racist, explained why he was “jealous” of Jewish culture, and claimed that Quentin Tarantino stole West’s idea for Django Unchained.
West’s comments have also led to real-world cases of abuse against Jewish communities. Last weekend, for example, neo-Nazi groups in Los Angeles hung a banner reading “Kanye is right about the Jews” over a freeway.