Investigating Kanye

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By Ketrin Agustine

Investigating Kanye

How Adidas looked past misconduct in its partnership with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.

When Adidas ended its wildly lucrative shoe deal with Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, a year ago, the breakup appeared to be the culmination of weeks of his inflammatory remarks about Jews and Black Lives Matter. But our examination found that behind the scenes, the partnership was fraught from the start.

Interviews with current and former employees of Adidas and of West, along with hundreds of previously undisclosed internal records, including contracts, text messages and financial documents, provide the fullest accounting yet of the relationship. Here are seven takeaways.

For almost 10 years, Adidas looked past West’s misconduct as profits soared. The partnership, which began in 2013, boosted company profits and made West a billionaire. But West subjected employees to antisemitic and other abusive comments. And though their contract for years had a clause allowing Adidas to end the agreement if West’s behavior harmed the company’s reputation, it’s not clear that executives ever considered invoking it before terminating the deal last year.

West showed a troubling fixation on Jews and Hitler. At a 2013 meeting with Adidas designers at the company’s headquarters in Germany, he drew a swastika on one of their sketches. He later told a Jewish Adidas manager to kiss a portrait of Hitler every day. And West told Adidas colleagues that he admired Hitler’s command of propaganda.

He brought pornography and crude comments into the workplace. Weeks before the swastika episode, West made Adidas executives watch pornography during a meeting at his Manhattan apartment. Last year, he ambushed Adidas executives in Los Angeles with a pornographic film. Staff members also complained to top executives that he had made angry, sexually offensive comments to them.

Trying on Yeezy shoes in 2020.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Big demands and mood swings weighed on the relationship. West, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at times rejected the assessment and resisted treatment. Tears were common; so was fury. In 2019, he abruptly moved the operation designing his shoes, called Yeezys, to remote Cody, Wyo., and ordered the Adidas team to relocate. In a meeting with company leaders that year to discuss his demands, he hurled shoes around the room.

Adidas adapted to West’s behavior. Managers and top executives started a group text chain, called the “Yzy hotline,” to address matters involving West. The Adidas team working on Yeezys adopted a strategy they likened to firefighting, rotating members on and off the front lines of dealing with the artist.

As the brand grew more reliant on Yeezys, it sweetened the deal for West. Under the 2016 contract, he received a 15 percent royalty on net sales, with $15 million upfront along with millions of dollars in company stock each year. In 2019, Adidas agreed to another enticement: $100 million annually, officially for Yeezy marketing but, in practice, a fund that West could spend with little oversight.

The sales continue. After the relationship between West and Adidas ruptured a year ago and Yeezy sales stopped, the company projected its first annual loss in decades. West’s net worth plummeted. Still, they had at least one more chance to keep making money together. In May, the company began releasing the remaining $1.3 billion worth of Yeezys. A cut of the proceeds would go to charity. But most of the revenue would go to Adidas, and West was entitled to royalties.

You can read the full investigation here.

A funeral in Israel for a mother and two daughters killed in the Hamas attacks. Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times
  • Military and government leaders in Israel are divided over whether to invade Gaza. Troops are waiting at the border.

  • The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza released the names and ID numbers of 6,747 people it said had been killed in Israeli strikes.

  • Many water faucets have run dry and food is increasingly scarce in Gaza. See photos from inside the enclave.

  • The U.S. hit targets linked to Iran in eastern Syria. The airstrikes were intended to deter both attacks on American forces in the region and a wider war.

  • An empty Shabbat table in Times Square had a space for each of the around 200 hostages held by Hamas.

  • In an essay that went to press before the war began, President Biden’s national security adviser called the Middle East “quieter than it has been for decades.” Critics have pounced.

  • University of Pennsylvania alumni are pulling their donations, angry over the school’s perceived leftward shift and response to Hamas’s attacks.

Law enforcement officers in Bowdoin, Maine, on Thursday.John Tully for The New York Times
  • State and federal authorities combed the countryside around Lewiston, Maine, in search of the gunman who killed 18 people in a mass shooting on Wednesday night.

  • The suspect, a 40-year-old Army reservist named Robert Card, has not been found. Thousands of Maine residents are locked down.

  • A survivor of the bowling alley attack described the shock as the shooting began. “This stuff doesn’t happen in Maine. Everybody’s nice,” he said.

  • Representative Jared Golden, a centrist Democrat whose district includes Lewiston, urged Congress to ban assault rifles, reversing his earlier opposition.

  • Mike Johnson has doubted climate science, opposed clean energy and received campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies.

  • In an interview with Sean Hannity, Johnson suggested that he was skeptical of aiding Palestinians in Gaza and dismissed calls for more gun control.

  • A federal judge struck down Georgia’s Republican-drawn voting maps, saying they disempowered Black voters. He ordered the legislature to redraw them.

  • Republicans in North Carolina, a closely divided state, approved a gerrymandered congressional map that favors their party.

  • The Texas House voted to allow local police agencies to arrest migrants, a challenge to the federal government’s power over immigration.

  • Representative Dean Phillips, a moderate Minnesota Democrat, is running for president in a challenge to Biden.

Stocking up in Acapulco, southern Mexico, after Hurricane Otis.Marco Ugarte/Associated Press
  • Otis was one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Because the storm cut off travel and communication, the extent of its destruction​ is still unclear.

  • A government program in Denmark is using demolition and relocation to remake neighborhoods with “non-Western” immigrants, poverty or crime.

  • When Elon Musk bought Twitter one year ago, he said the site “obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape.” Experts on misinformation say it has become just that.

  • How do users feel about the new Twitter — or X, as Musk has rebranded it? Many have abandoned the site, saying its quality and safeguards have deteriorated.

  • New York banned corporal punishment in private schools after a Times investigation revealed its widespread use in Hasidic schools.

  • An N.Y.P.D. tow truck hit and killed a 7-year-old boy as he was crossing a street in Brooklyn, police officials said.

In Washington, D.C.Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
  • The U.S. economy surged last quarter, growing 4.9 percent as a strong job market and falling inflation fueled consumer spending.

  • A woman in Ohio fatally drugged four men she met for sex, according to officials.

The Israel-Hamas war distracts from Ukraine and undermines U.S. dominance in the Middle East, Hanna Notte argues. Who benefits? Russia.

Here’s a column by Nicholas Kristof on the survivors of the Hamas attacks.

Andria Lo for The New York Times

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A Morning listen: Try “The Kids of Rutherford County,” a new podcast from Serial Productions.

Modern Love: When breaking up is an act of love.

Lives Lived: Rock Brynner built a varied career as road manager for the Band, bodyguard for Muhammad Ali, professor of constitutional history and more. He died at 76.

N.F.L.: The Buffalo Bills beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18, withstanding a last-second Hail Mary attempt.

Soccer stalemate: The U.S. women’s team was held to a 0-0 draw by Colombia in the first of two friendlies this week between the sides. They play again Sunday.

Dame time: Damian Lillard scored 39 points in his Milwaukee Bucks debut, leading his new team to a 118-117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Boxing: These women are fighting by men’s rules.

A wedding in the Stanley Hotel.Shea McGrath Photography

Till death do us part: The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo., inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining.” And while that may not sound like the most romantic getaway to some, the hotel has become a hot spot for horror-loving couples seeking a spooky setting for their wedding. One couple, who married there on a recent Friday the 13th, said the hotel matched their ideal wedding vibe: “an elegant Victorian funeral.”

  • A recently finished recording billed as the “last song” by the Beatles will be released on Nov. 2, half a century after the group broke up.

  • The comedian Hasan Minhaj addressed claims he embellished his stand-up, saying he thought “the lines between truth and fiction were allowed to be a bit more blurry.”

  • Stephen Colbert spoke about gun violence and the failures of Congress.

Mark Weinberg for The New York Times

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