In an interview with Bloomberg TV, the CEO of Adidas said that rapper Kanye West was still an “important part” of the company’s strategy, even after the performer’s comments about slavery.
However, he did stress that “there clearly are some comments we don’t support” and that he plans to discuss the matter with Kanye at some point.
Wait, what did Kanye say?
During an appearance on TMZ on Tuesday, West volunteered that he thought it was the mentality of African slaves that kept them from being free.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years?! — that sounds like a choice,” he said. “Like, you was there for 400 years and it’s all y’all? You know, it’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word prison ’cause slavery goes too — too direct to the idea of blacks.”
These comments, predictably, created swift backlash. West tried to address this outrage on Twitter, by seeming to double down on his original point. He wrote in a series of tweets:
To make myself clear. Of course, I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved. They cut out our tongues so we couldn’t communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut.
These tweets have since been deleted.
What did the Adidas CEO say?
Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted was confronted with West’s comments during an interview on Bloomberg TV.
Rørsted at first tried to stick to a standard non-answer:
We neither comment nor speculate about every single comment that our external creators are making. Kanye has been and is a very important part of our strategy, and has been a fantastic creator. And that’s where I’m gonna leave it, I’m not gonna comment on every comment he or anyone else is making. That’s pretty much the party line at this stage.
Upon further questioning, Rørsted volunteered that he did not think that the incident would hurt his company:
If you look at our overall numbers, last year we did almost $25 billion, we’re a very large company. And Kanye and the “Yeezy” is a very important part of our brand. You know from a revenue standpoint less so, but it’s a very important part of how we promote our products, particularly in the U.S. and other parts of the world. … So while Kanye is a very important part of the Adidas brand, Adidas is a large global company with a very, very strong presence around the world, and will continue to perform well.
When he was pressed again about how Kanye’s comments were less easy to dismiss than most celebrity missteps, Rørsted replied that while he had not spoken to Kanye but he did plan on having “conversations” with him in the future:
I saw the comment as you have seen it. I haven’t had any conversation with Kanye within the last 24 hours, to be honest, because we have the earnings around. And we’re — it’s very clear to us that we’re a sports company, and we want to change people’s lives through sport, which is a very important part of course, then we will have conversations. But I do want to focus on the core, what the company’s about is delivering the best sporting goods products in the world, and having our consumers buy those products, and that’s what’s happening right now in the marketplace.
While he stressed how important West was to his brand, Rørsted also added that “there clearly are some comments we don’t support.”