Was Adidas really founded by a Nazi?
On Tuesday, sportswear giant Adidas announced that it was severing his highly lucrative Yeezy sneaker partnership with Yeafter the rapper and designer formerly known as Kanye West made a series of anti-Semitic remarks in recent weeks.
The company said in a statement that he “does not tolerate anti-Semitism and any other kind of hate speech” and that Ye’s “recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous.”
As a result, Adidas said it would “immediately end production of Yeezy-branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies,” a partnership estimated to bring billions to the company each year.
Growing public outrage over Ye’s comments quickly translated into criticism from Adidas itself, with commentators claiming the company hadn’t acted quickly enough to cut ties with the rapper.
“Your silence is a danger to Jews,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Monday. “We can’t let Ye’s anti-Semitism normalize – we all need to demand that Adidas move away from hate by condemning their racist rhetoric and reassessing their partnership.”
Some argued that the company was slow to drop Ye because she had Nazi backgrounds.
“Adidas was founded by real Nazis, so I guess the company’s reluctance to drop Kanye isn’t really shocking,” writes Marisa Kabas. said on Twitter on Monday.
The founders of the company that became Adidas were in fact members of the Nazi Party, the Jewish Telegraph Agency reports.
In 1924, brothers Adolf (“Adi”) and Rudolf Dassler founded Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory), in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach.
A decade later, as the company continued to grow and Hitler rose to power, both brothers joined the Nazi Party, according to journalist Barbara Smit’s book on Adidas, sneaker wars.
During this period, both men signed their letters “Heil Hitler”, and German athletes wore the brothers’ shoes for the infamous “Nazi Olympics” of 1936 in Berlin.
The company later highlighted how Adi Dassler also provided sneakers during the 1936 games to Jesse Owens, the groundbreaking African-American athletic star who stunned American and German audiences.
Adidas Told Initiated that seeing athletes “do their best was more important to Adi Dassler than politics” and that the company is “proud that Adi Dassler showed moral courage … in this darkest phase of history German”.
During World War II, the company’s shoe factories were turned into munitions factories for the Germans. After the war, the two brothers came under scrutiny for their Nazi connections.
Rudolf was arrested on suspicion of providing information to the Gestapo and was briefly sent to a POW camp, while Adi was also accused of supporting the Nazis during the war, but local leaders testified that he was not a party loyalist. Adi also claimed that he continued to do business with Jewish leather merchants long after other German companies refused to do so.
It wasn’t until 1949, five years after the end of World War II, that Adi broke away and started his own company, Adidas, amid a sibling rift, while Rudolf founded Puma.