Kanye West, in the space of less than one month, has lost his agency, important business and endorsement deals and his spot on Forbes’ billionaires list, among many other repercussions for what started as a questionable fashion choice in Paris Oct. 3 and quickly escalated into a series of antisemitic statements with real-world consequences.
Ye, as the rapper and fashion entrepreneur is now known, has a history of provocative statements and behavior and has been open about his own mental health struggles and, for the most part, his business partners and even the public have appeared to give him a wide berth. That level of tolerance seems to be ending.
An appearance at his YZY runway show at Paris Fashion Week, at which Ye wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt and dressed several Black models similarly, drew criticism. But subsequent appearances on the “Drink Champs” podcast and with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson later in the month followed by a series of blatantly antisemitic social media messages went too far for many.
With a freeway banner drop saying “Kanye was right about the Jews” in West Los Angeles and reports that Beverly Hills police are investigating at least 25 incidents of antisemitic flyers being distributed in neighborhoods, pressure increased on West’s partners to disassociate with the global superstar.
And many have. CAA confirmed it no longer represents West as a client. WME’s Ari Emanuel published an op-ed in the Financial Times, writing, “Those who continue to do business with West are giving his misguided hate an audience.” United Talent Agency’s Jeremy Zimmer wrote in part: “… throughout history some have used their public platform to spew the plague out loud and spread the contagion to dangerous effect. Kanye is the latest to do so, and we’re seeing how his words embolden others to amplify their vile beliefs.”
MRC Entertainment also announced it has shelved and will not distribute a completed documentary about West. Banking giant JP Morgan Chase, fashion house Balenciaga, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, T.J. Maxx,
Footlocker and, possibly most financially damaging, adidas all announced they have cut ties with West. In a statement, the German conglomerate writes: “… Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous … After a thorough review, the company has taken the decision to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies.”
The decision was costly for adidas: “This is expected to have a short-term negative impact of up to €250 million on the company’s net income in 2022 given the high seasonality of the fourth quarter,” the company said. The decision, according to Forbes, represented at least a $1.5 billion hit to West.
In the live space, one-offs and “Kanye West Presents: The Donda Album Release” shows in the last year filled stadiums including Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Soldier Field in Chicago and LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida, and the a “Free Larry Hoover” event at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum also featuring Drake, which was livestreamed to a global audience. He presented arena and amphitheater shows in 2019 and 2020, just prior to the COVID pandemic, but his last apparent formal tour was a 40-date run in 2016 that reported 584,181 tickets sold and $50,232,618 grossed.
It included eight sold-out shows at the Forum in Inglewood, California (two in April and six in October, 2016); two sellouts at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California; and multiple dates at Madison Square Garden in New York City; AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, and Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Only time will tell if West will be able to recover from his October meltdown going forward. Live Nation, which promoted most dates on his 2016 tour, did not immediately respond to a request for comment and, at least for the moment, it seems unlikely that promoters or venues would ignore calls from their agency brethren to keep their distance.
It’s a forgiving business, but words and actions do have consequences, and Kanye West is finding that out.