Ye’s Empire Is Finally Crumbling. Why Did It Take so Long?

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A bearded Black man wearing a black hoodie and baseball cap stares into the camera, mouth slightly open. He is wearing a mouthguard with Balenciaga written on it.
Ye in Paris on Oct. 2, 2022. (Edward Berthelot/GC Images)

As companies all over the world cut ties with Ye (formerly Kanye West) this month, statements against the rapper’s litany of antisemitic assertions have been decisive.

“Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous,” said Adidas.

“We cannot support any content that amplifies his platform,” MRC announced, as the film and TV company shelved its already-completed Ye documentary.

Fashion house Balenciaga, talent agency CAA and Vogue’s Anna Wintour all cut ties with Ye without much fanfare, but organizations not even working with the rapper took their own stands. “We can’t support hate speech, bigotry or anti-Semitism,” talent agency UTA emailed to its staff. “Please support the boycott of Kanye West.”

Not for nothing. Ye’s recent antisemitic statements have been both shocking and relentless. There was his Oct. 4 declaration that he was going “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” There was a text exchange Ye himself leaked, in which he told Sean Combs: “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me.” And there was the Fox News appearance where Ye stated (among many other terrible, terrible things): “I’d prefer my kids knew Hanukkah than Kwanzaa — at least it would come with some financial engineering.”


This latest bout of hate speech is the culmination of years during which Ye has made incendiary and harmful comments — none of which prompted the kind of professional consequences he’s now facing.

Adidas, Balenciaga and CAA all stuck by Ye in 2018 after he suggested that slavery was “a choice” on TMZ. The companies didn’t react later that year when Ye ended an episode of Saturday Night Live with a rant that included him saying, “Blacks weren’t always Democrats. It’s like a plan they did to take the fathers out the homes and promote welfare. Does anybody know about that? That’s the Democratic plan.”

Ye’s business arrangements were not impacted in 2016 after he specified that he would be hiring “multiracial women only” for Yeezy Season 4 — a choice that inspired accusations of colorism. Nor were they impacted in 2020 when, speaking at a rally, Ye said that Harriett Tubman “never actually freed the slaves” but instead sent them to “go work for other white people.”

After Ye appeared at Paris Fashion Week wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt earlier this month, Adidas did put his contracts under review. But it took a mountain of online pressure and an open letter from the Anti-Defamation League to spur Adidas into more decisive action. (“At this point, what more do you need to review?” ADL CEO Jan Runau asked.)

Even with the rash of companies cutting ties with Ye now, the impetus appears to be rooted almost entirely in opposition to his antisemitism. The fact that earlier this month Ye also suggested that George Floyd was killed by fentanyl — and not the police officer convicted of his murder, Derek Chauvin — has been far less of a focus. (“If you look,” Ye told the Drink Champs podcast, “the guy’s knee wasn’t even on his neck like that.”) Floyd’s family plans to sue and Drink Champs has since denounced Ye’s comments.

It has not been lost on the Black community that Ye’s many statements denigrating Black people have never prompted the kind of corporate pushback that his antisemitic comments have. Discussions around it dominated Twitter on Tuesday. “Wish being anti-Black held this much weight,” Scottie Beam noted.

It’s also worth wondering why Ye’s longstanding history of misogynistic behavior was never a deal-breaker for his business associates. Ye’s casual sexism started over a decade ago with his repeated attempts to publicly humiliate Amber Rose. He has been open about the joy he gleans from exercising control over his romantic partners’ wardrobes. (And, thanks to Kardashian-based reality television, we’ve seen the scathing insults he sends when these women don’t comply.)

Ye has made not one but two videos in which he fetishizes lifeless female bodies. 2010’s “Monster” was first, with its dead models hanging from the ceiling and dead models lying next to him in bed. (It never got an official release.) Then came 2016’s “Famous,” a video that depicted real, non-consenting humans (including Taylor Swift and Amber Rose) as naked and unconscious in bed with Ye and Kim Kardashian. Kardashian was in a face-down position, shielding her modesty. Swift and Rose were not given the same consideration.

Earlier this year, Ye decided to proudly (and loudly) collaborate with Marilyn Manson, right after the rocker was accused of a litany of sexual and physical abuses by Evan Rachel Wood and a dozen other women. Ye’s decision to do this was a middle finger to abuse survivors everywhere, and he openly enjoyed it.

Then there’s Ye’s frightening treatment of his now-ex-wife, which he has openly broadcast, entirely unafraid of potential consequences either to him as a parent, or to his divorce proceedings. Nobody dropped Ye after he released a song letting Kardashian know that her “security gon’ need security” — shortly after buying the house opposite hers. Nobody dropped Ye when he made a video depicting the murder and beheading of Kardashian’s new boyfriend, Pete Davidson, whom he also publicly and repeatedly threatened. And nobody batted an eyelash when Ye punched an autograph hunter and blamed it on the stress of his divorce.

Though Ye’s newfound obsession with baseless conspiracies about the Jewish community is undoubtedly dangerous, this is not the first group of people Ye has used his platform to endanger. Ye has been skating past this kind of bad behavior, unscathed, for so many years now, is it any wonder he thought he could say antisemitic things and not get dropped by Adidas?


Adidas, Balenciaga, CAA et al. can feign shock and disgust now, but it has been clear for a very long time who Ye is and what he thinks of the rest of the world. That he suffered no serious financial consequences until this month is part of the reason why his behavior has devolved to this level.