Yeezys were back in stores last week as Adidas continued to sell off the remaining inventory of the shoes from its aborted collaboration with Kanye West. But missing from the retailers carrying the shoes was Foot Locker, which did not post any information about the Yeezy restock and has not released any pairs.
Sneaker industry sources tell Complex that Foot Locker had originally planned to take on stock of Yeezys but later decided against it. Foot Locker, the sources say, was afraid of the backlash that selling shoes associated with West, who now goes by Ye, could generate. The retailer also ran into difficulties trying to integrate a charity aspect into its sale of Yeezys, sources said.
Foot Locker did not respond to multiple requests for comment and Adidas did not provide a comment.
The German sneaker brand put an end to its relationship with Ye in October 2022 after he made antisemtic remarks on social media and waged a public battle against Adidas. In the time since dropping him, the brand considered what it could do with the existing Yeezy product, eventually deciding to release it in waves this year and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity and anti-hate groups.
The return of Yeezys has been successful so far and met with virtually no controversy. Adidas’ CEO said it generated $437 million in revenue from the initial relaunch earlier this summer and is donating $120 million in Yeezy sales to charity. Following those releases, which were available exclusively through Adidas, the brand launched more leftover Yeezys last week, this time also distributing them via retail accounts.
The absence of Yeezys extends to other stores owned by Foot Locker. A rep for Atmos, a sneaker boutique that Foot Locker acquired in 2021, confirmed that its stores would not stock the shoes.
Another major sneaker retailer to opt out of the Yeezy releases is Kith, which sold Yeeyzs in the past. Ronnie Fieg, founder of the New York-based Kith, did not respond to a request for comment.
When the relationship between Adidas and Ye fell apart last year, Foot Locker was quick to pull Yeezys from its shelves.
“Foot Locker, Inc. does not tolerate any form of antisemitism, or hateful and discriminatory behavior,” a spokesperson said then. “While we remain a partner with Adidas and carry a wide assortment of their collections, we will not be supporting any future Yeezy product drops, and we have instructed our retail operators to pull any existing product from our shelves and digital sites.”
As Ye became a pariah in 2022, selling his shoes became a risk for businesses wary of making a profit off products connected to someone with antisemitic views. After distancing itself from the artist, Adidas was stuck with millions of unsold Yeezys that had yet to be released. Adidas’ solution was to move forward with the sales of Yeezys in 2023 and donate some of the revenue from them to anti-hate groups. Some pairs are packaged with square blue pins tied to the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism’s #StandUpToJewishHate campaign.
The solution appeared at first to be an acceptable one for Foot Locker, which is one of Adidas’ biggest retail partners. Before Adidas confirmed the latest round of Yeezy restocks for August, rumors circulated about Foot Locker carrying the shoes.
Foot Locker never announced that it would carry this month’s Yeezys but one employee at the chain retailer tells Complex that the shoes were on its slate of upcoming releases. Adidas Alerts, a social media account that tracks Adidas drops and posts links where followers can buy them, wrote that Foot Locker’s internal release calendars still featured Yeezys as of last week. But they did not arrive on their expected launch dates.
By contrast, big box sneaker stores that compete with Foot Locker, like Snipes and Finish Line, made social media posts announcing they would sell Adidas Yeezys.
If Foot Locker had trepidation about bringing Yeezys back to the market, it was not alone. Speaking on Adidas’ Q2 2023 earnings call last Thursday, Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden said the brand was worried about how the Yeezy relaunch would be perceived.
“The Yeezy thing was something we were nervous about that worked,” Gulden said.