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Adidas sued in US over axed Kanye West deal

In this file photo taken on November 6, 2019 US rapper Kanye West attends the WSJ Magazine 2019 Innovator Awards at MOMA in New York City. PHOTO/AFP

Investors in Adidas have filed a lawsuit against the company at a US court over its cancelled partnership with Kanye West, saying it should have been aware he courted controversy.

The class-action lawsuit seen by AFP was submitted Friday in US District Court in Oregon, where the German sportswear giant’s US headquarters is located, and argues executives failed to control damage linked to the tie-up.

Adidas halted its deal with the rapper — now known formally as Ye — in October after he made a series of anti-Semitic outbursts.

As a result, the group ended production of the highly successful Yeezy line designed together with West.

The US lawsuit represents people who bought Adidas shares between May 3, 2018 and February 21, 2023.

It argues that for years before the partnership ended, the rapper “began to accrue controversy as a result of his various statements on topics such as slavery, racial issues, and politics”.

In 2018, for example, West suggested that slavery had been a “choice” for enslaved people, the lawsuit said.

Adidas dismissed the allegations in the litigation.

“We firmly reject these unfounded claims and will take all necessary steps to vehemently defend ourselves against them,” a company spokesman, Stefan Pursche, said in a statement emailed to AFP.

The artist was associated with rival sportswear company Nike for years but broke away in 2013, lending his name to Adidas as they launched their first Yeezy shoe in 2015 — a partnership that went on to make him a billionaire.

The company began a review of its relationship with West after he appeared at a Paris fashion show last October wearing a shirt emblazoned with “White Lives Matter”, a slogan created as a backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Days later he was locked out of Twitter and Instagram over anti-Semitic threats.

Adidas said in March it was now weighing what to do with its huge inventory of West’s Yeezy products, as potentially not selling the apparel and shoes linked to West would lead to a revenue loss of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion).

That would lower the company’s operating profit by an additional 500 million euros in 2023, the company said.

Adidas will release its first-quarter results on Friday.

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