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Adidas CEO: Kanye ‘didn’t mean what he said’ about Jews

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 22: Kanye West attends the Balenciaga Spring 2023 Fashion Show at the New York Stock Exchange on May 22, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Gotham/GC Images)

New York (CNN) — Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden said he doesn’t think Kanye West “meant what he said” when the rapper spewed antisemitic comments last year.

In a recent podcast interview, Gulden complimented West, also known as Ye, calling him “one of the most creative people in the world.” Gulden said the fact that Ye made the statements “wasn’t that good” and led Adidas to break the contract and withdraw the product, referencing the end of its Yeezy line.

“Very unfortunate, because I don’t think he meant what he said, and I don’t think he’s a bad person. It just came across that way,” Gulden said, who is Norwegian born with English not being his first language. “That meant we lost that business, one of the most successful collabs in the history … very sad.”

Adidas didn’t immediately return CNN’s request for comment about Gulden’s remarks. Gulden became CEO in November 2022, shortly after the partnership with West ended.

West went on a tirade against Jews in a different podcast, saying that he “can say antisemitic s*** and Adidas cannot drop me” and threatened to “go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” on his X account. His comments garnered global outrage and a few days later Adidas ended its nine-year business relationship with him.

Prior to those comments, Adidas put the “partnership under review” after he wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt in public. The Anti-Defamation League categorizes the phrase as a “hate slogan” used by White supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan.

Adidas took a huge financial hit after the dissolution of the Yeezy line of shoes. The company said it expected to lose $1.3 billion in revenue this year because it was unable to sell the designer’s Yeezy clothing and shoes.

However, strong sales so far of leftover Yeezy inventory is helping it to recoup some of its losses. It now expects to make a €450 million ($491 million) operating loss in 2023, a much better outcome than the €700 million ($764 million) loss it had forecast back in March.

Adidas recently signed a $1.2 billion deal with British football club Manchester United in an attempt to find another successful collaboration in the wake of West’s exit.