Kanye West and the Limits of Free Speech

Matthew Welcher, Staff

Is Kanye West entitled to his own opinions or does free speech have a limit?  

This past October, West decided to go on Twitter, making anti-Semitic comments – a prosecutable crime in Germany, where Adidas, one of the brands that sponsors him, is based.  

He didn’t just stop there though, Kanye then went on Drink Champs podcast and said, “I can say anti-Semitic things and Adidas can’t drop me, now what? Now what?”  

This was obviously a mistake, as Adidas terminated their deal and stopped payments to any of his companies shortly after. Hate speech is not something that should be tolerated, especially with a large platform. 

Saying hurtful things towards groups of people publicly is not okay especially with as big of a following as Kanye had. There’s a lot of people who have seen his statements and were offended or felt hurt. He also has many young fans that admire him possibly putting the idea in their heads that this is okay or something cool to do.  Many other celebrities have spoken out on their opinion on the situation, even his ex-wife Kim Kardashian made a post on Instagram saying, “hate speech is never ok or excusable. I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate stop.”    

Is anyone going to help him after this? You wouldn’t think so, but it wouldn’t be the first time Kanye did something to upset the media and bounced back somehow. This time might be a tipping point though, Twitter and Instagram have suspended his accounts, giving no platform to express himself, which seems fair seeing the way he was choosing to use it. 

But the question is should he get another chance, or does he deserve what’s happened to him? Giving him platforms with that large of audiences is just asking for him to make another remark, possibly worse than this. There’s a large group of people that believe free speech shouldn’t be limited just because of someone’s public status, I don’t think anyone who has a large following and is connected to other companies should be able to publicly make hurtful or offensive statements, whether it’s a joke or not it can and probably will be taken seriously which can affect not only his reputations but the companies that work with and support him. 

Kanye’s actions have not only hurt him or Adidas but businesses and workers also. Per complex, Okabashi, a footwear manufacturing company out of Georgia decided to lay off over half of their staff, 142 workers who lost their jobs due to halt of manufacturing Yeezy’s which is turning something he probably thought was a funny remark into effecting innocent people’s lives.   

Adidas waited a questionable amount of time to cut ties with Kanye, on Oct. 25, over two weeks after he made the initial statement. Compared to the other companies that stopped working with him, it does make some sense seeing their deal made up around 10 percent of the company’s profits. Although you would think since their company has a past with issues like these, they would have tried getting away from the heat Kanye was drawing to himself and Yeezy as a brand. The company was founded in 1949 by Adi Dassler, whose older business was manufacturing military equipment for Nazi Germany. Thankfully under new ownership the company has tried its hardest to stay away from any hate speech especially towards Jewish people. 

There isn’t much Kanye can really do to come back from this. Not only has he lost just about all his business deals that give him continued income and has been removed from social media platforms which is deserved after making the statements he made. But what can be expected when he makes anti-Semitic comments online, then mocks the company that he had half of his net worth tied into. It’s almost like he was trying to do this.