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Adidas is standing by Kanye West, who said slavery 'sounds like a choice'

Key Points
  • "Kanye has helped us have a great comeback in the U.S.," the CEO of Adidas tells CNBC.
  • Earlier this week, West said on TMZ that slavery "sounds like a choice."
  • The remarks sparked an outpouring of backlash on social media.
  • Adidas says it will "look into other violations of code of conduct" with respect to West.
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Adidas is standing by Kanye West after slavery comments

Adidas isn't currently planning to drop rapper Kanye West as a sneaker designer, despite his comments this week on slavery in the U.S., which sparked a flurry of backlash on social media.

"Kanye has helped us have a great comeback in the U.S.," Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted told Sara Eisen on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Thursday morning. "There is no doubt the Yeezy brand has a fundamental impact on our overall brand."

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Watch CNBC's full interview with Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted

West has played a key role in helping propel Adidas' image of late, making it resonate with younger consumers again. The singer-songwriter designs an exclusive line of sneakers, Yeezy, for Adidas. The limited-edition styles and select rollouts have aroused enthusiasts, known as "sneakerheads," to spend hours outside of stores, and hundreds of dollars, just to snag one pair.

During an interview with TMZ this week, West said: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years — 400 years? That sounds like a choice."

Many listeners were shocked to hear West's remarks. The interview quickly went viral on Twitter.

A petition has since circulated calling for Adidas to cut ties with West.

"For many, many years we have been a member of the U.S. human rights declaration, which speaks very clearly against slavery, racism, child labor. ... We continue to promote that strongly. [And] when it comes to one individual person, I couldn't comment on that," Rorsted told CNBC Thursday regarding West's comments on TMZ.

Rorsted said Adidas will "look into other violations of code of conduct" with respect to West. "And then eventually we make up our opinion," he said.

Adidas also on Thursday reported an increase in net profit for the first quarter, fueled by sales in North America, greater China and online. Growth in greater China alone was 26 percent during the first three months of the year.

Rorsted told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" earlier in the day that the company was expecting to continue to sell more casual wear, levering an athleisure trend that doesn't appear to be slowing down in the fashion industry.

"We are clearly a sports company, but a lot of the [Adidas] products are used for athleisure or fashion," the CEO said.

According to NPD analyst Matt Powell, Adidas was the fastest-growing player in the athletic footwear market overall in 2017, surpassing Nike and increasing its sales by more than 50 percent.