Bored Ape NFT from Yacht Club NFT collection (BAYC) on smartphone screen

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‘I explicitly sh*t on Hitler’: Bored Ape co-founder uses farewell post to debunk Nazi claims about NFT project

Wylie Aronow is stepping away from the embattled NFT company amid concerns for his health


Jacob Seitz


Posted on Feb 14, 2023

Bored Ape Yacht Club founder Wylie Aronow announced he was leaving the company due to health concerns on Friday, penning a lengthy Substack post where he also addressed the allegations of neo-Nazi and racist imagery levied at the company.

The Bored Ape and Yuga Labs founder said that he was diagnosed with heart failure and decided it was time to “radically change” his life.

“I’ve left most of my responsibilities at Yuga in good hands, while still giving myself room to advise as much as I’m able. I’m scheduled to see some great cardiologists and am working with some integrative specialists who are going to walk me through everything from supplements to pretty intensive therapies and a major diet overhaul,” Aronow said.

Aronow used his farewell message to address the controversy surrounding Bored Ape, specifically the alleged use of esoteric, racist imagery popularized on 4chan and Reddit. 

“I’ll start off by saying that we’ve already publicly shown these allegations are simply lies. Some of my co-founders have even testified under oath to the true facts. Anyone who thinks we’re only refuting these lies in just a letter is wrong,” he said. “Everything I’m writing here is verifiable and true, and I will soon call out this utter bullshit under oath too.”

Aronow dismissed the idea that the founders used racist imagery, pointing to their political donation history and his own heritage as an Ashkenazi Jew. Aronow also said that the rest of the cofounders are first-generation Americans. He explained away a myriad of things the group has been called out for in the past few years, from the name of the NFT itself to the symbols they used.

The Apes, Aronow said, were named after the “apes” of early crypto and NFT Twitter, who were buying and selling with reckless abandon. But instead of living a lavish lifestyle, these “apes” were on Twitter posting memes and looking for League of Legends friends. As Aronow wrote, they were bored. So, Bored Ape was born. 

Aronow explained point by point how BAYC was not, in fact, racist or coded in any way. The Japanese headbands, he said, were an honest mistake and not a reference to a Pepe meme. The Prussian helmet is used by countries around the world today. The patches that many have specifically called out are a common design and not a reference to any Nazi symbol, Aronow said.

Aranow also said that he’d previously vocally denounced Hitler.

“In an interview I gave in 2014 to the Chicago Tribune, long before starting Yuga, which was about novels I liked and disliked, I explicitly shit on Hitler,” Aranow wrote.

Almost all of these allegations were made by Bored Ape’s most vocal critic, Ryder Ripps. Ripps is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over his own collection that spoofed the concept of Bored Ape, prompting Yuga Labs—Bored Ape’s parent company—to sue him over trademark infringement. Ripps has long been vocal about his belief that Bored Ape has deeply hidden antisemitic and racist imagery in the NFTs, and has used their likeness to shine a proverbial mirror in the company’s face. 

Ripps and his codefendant, Jeremy Cahen, attempted to bring the allegations into court via a counterclaim against Yuga, and a hearing on those claims is scheduled for Feb. 27. 

However, Bored Ape is facing another lawsuit, recently filed, claiming that its celebrity endorsements were part of an effort to defraud buyers into thinking the Apes were more popular than they actually were, helping to artificially inflate the sale price of the NFTs.

In a statement to CNN, Yuga Labs said, “In our view, these claims are opportunistic and parasitic. We strongly believe that they are without merit, and look forward to proving as much.”

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*First Published: Feb 14, 2023, 8:46 am CST