Kanye West, Ye, Mental Health, Adidas

Ye Wasn’t Allowed Mental Health Treatment Under Contract With Adidas

As reported by Fast Company, back in 2013 Ye signed a groundbreaking contract with Adidas, one that promised him 15% of royalties from Yeezy sales, ultimately propelling him into billionaire status. Fast-forward to 2016, when West sought to extend that contract and Adidas inserted a morals clause into the agreement. That clause allowed Adidas to terminate the contract based on specific behaviors, including felony conviction, bankruptcy, mental health issues, or any actions that could bring “disrepute, contempt, scandal” to Ye or tarnish the Adidas brand, according to The New York Times.

What makes this situation unique is the inclusion of an additional clause that raised eyebrows: “30 consecutive days of mental health or substance abuse treatment.”

In essence, Ye, who later revealed his diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2016, received a month of care for his mental health and well-being. He risked losing a significant portion of his Yeezy empire, amounting to billions.

While Adidas was legally within its rights to end the deal, many question the ethics of including such a provision, especially when it’s a public figure grappling with mental health issues. Alexandra Roberts, a professor of law and media, noted that it’s unusual to see a mental health clause in a contract, suggesting that Adidas may have formulated its morals clause based on what it already knew about Ye.

During the partnership with Adidas, reports emerged detailing Ye’s erratic behavior, anti-Semitic comments, and incidents of exposing employees to explicit content. Despite this, Adidas stuck by him longer than many believed it should have. But Adidas never invoked the morals clause following Ye seeking mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Morals clauses are a common feature in celebrity endorsements and high-level white-collar contracts, designed to provide a legal exit should a scandal damage a brand’s reputation. There is technically no limit to what such clauses could cover, with potential reputational harm dictating their scope.

While these clauses may seem awkward, not having them can lead to regrets, as evidenced by Amazon’s reluctance to part ways with Woody Allen after his #MeToo scandal. A well-drafted morals clause could have protected the company’s interests.

In the case of Adidas and Ye, it’s unclear how the rapper’s mental health treatment could have harmed Adidas’s reputation, especially considering his history of controversial comments and erratic behavior. Mental health, an increasingly vital concern for many, had become a central theme in Ye’s public persona. Adidas and Ye had already witnessed his struggles with mental instability, which he openly discussed in his album Life of Pablo.

In a world where 37% of people report feeling anxious or depressed, mental health has taken on new importance. This may explain why 42% of individuals with access to mental health benefits are more likely to stay with their employers. However, celebrities like Ye face different rules compared to traditional employees. They might encounter moral clauses that regular employees wouldn’t, given the unique nature of their endorsements.

“Mental health counseling? I don’t have empirical data on this, but…I don’t think I’ve seen it [in a contract] before,” said Roberts, professor of law and media at Northeastern University School of Law. “It feels like Adidas was defining its morals clause in part based upon what they already knew about Ye.” 

The very existence of such a clause remains a matter of concern, especially given the broader implications for mental health treatment. While we can’t ascertain if this clause impacted Ye’s decisions regarding treatment, it sheds light on a legal and ethical problem surrounding public figures and their mental health. Ultimately, it raises crucial questions about the rights and treatment of individuals in various employment arrangements.

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