On the clock - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Much has been made of the despicable behaviour and blatant anti-Semitism uncorked by musician Kanye West (now simply Ye) in the last few weeks. He has really revealed himself to be the absolute worst kind of person we have these days.
One by one, those associated with any of West’s business interests distanced themselves from him. And yet, one of the last companies standing was Adidas, leaving people calling for the sports giant to drop its deal with West.
The company would indeed end its work with West, but that came after what many on Twitter deemed a very long day of “deafening silence” from Adidas. The wait - about 24 hours - was enough for some people who have now sworn off the company for good, just for waiting so long to step away from West.
I am a lifelong admirer of Adidas. I have worn their shoes since I was in high school. Not necessarily because they were in fashion at the time (when I was young, Nike was really the brand for the cool kids, especially with the company’s foothold in the world of basketball and my school being very much a basketball school), but because I liked how they fit, how they looked and, frankly, their decent price.
With a rack of shoes from the brand with the three stripes, I was hoping this incident would get resolved. I didn’t fancy being the guy with the Nazi shoes (putting on blinders to Adidas’ other Nazi history back in the 1930s).
It did and all is well, it seems, in three stripes land, but what the whole situation really got me thinking about is the speed at which people are expected to make decisions these days.
The second the world of social media took notice of West’s horrible anti-Semitic remarks, his partnerships began dropping like flies. So, when it took Adidas about 24 hours to do likewise, that wasn’t good enough. In no way am I endorsing West’s hatred, nor am I saying any company should do business with him after what he’s said and done, but what I am saying is that I think a company has the right to take a day to make a decision that should lose it about $250 million. (Forbes estimates the total loss is more like $650 million.)
Sure, going the other way would have stood to lose the company much, much more (this began panning out even on the day in question, as Adidas stock shares dropped in price the longer it failed to terminate its partnership with West and shares of Nike, Adidas’ closest competitor, began to rise), but that’s a costly decision for any company to make. All this because someone off-site (for the company’s purposes) decided to remove his mask to reveal the hateful, anti-Semite underneath.
There are plenty of hard decisions and nagging issues in the mind of any business executive on a daily basis. For something like this to come out of left field (though some may argue that it’s not quite out of left field, given West’s questionable behaviour over the years), putting you to a decision sure to cost your company hundreds of millions of dollars either way, that makes it hard to not rue the day you were born before your feet hit the carpet - all because of something that happened outside of the four walls of the offices of your company.
Adidas did the right thing and the people on social media, impatient as they may be, did the right thing by holding the company’s feet to the fire, forcing them to make the right, ethical decision, even if executives weren’t ready to make it on their own - at least not right away.
In this world of instant information and second-by-second updates, we’re rarely given the chance to take a breath, and it’s fair to wonder what we lose when we have to act fast.