Setting the Record Straight

The co-founder of Yuga Labs, Wylie Aronow, shares a frank letter touching on his recent diagnosis of heart failure and responding to accusations of racist and Nazi imagery embedded within the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT project.

AccessTimeIconFeb 9, 2023 at 9:37 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 6, 2023 at 3:42 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconFeb 9, 2023 at 9:37 p.m. UTCUpdated Mar 6, 2023 at 3:42 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconFeb 9, 2023 at 9:37 p.m. UTCUpdated Mar 6, 2023 at 3:42 p.m. UTC

Editor's note: CoinDesk has reprinted Aronow's letter in its entirety as it was provided, except for minor edits for profanity and grammar.

It’s been a surreal couple of weeks for me. For those who don’t know, after a year of ignoring some pretty scary symptoms, my doctor called to tell me that the results of some extensive testing revealed I have heart failure. I learned that typically means a person has a 50% chance of living five more years. I asked my doctor what I should do, and besides telling me I need to go to see the best cardiologist we can find she said it was time to radically change my life.

So that’s what I immediately started doing. 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. I am radically changing my life.

My goal this week was to just reintegrate with the natural world. I’ve been hyper-caffeinated, working 12 hours a day, helping run a successful business from behind a computer screen for two years straight. Stepping away from it felt like getting off the world’s longest roller coaster. I went and sat on the beach with my partner and dog to clear my head. Just as we got back my cell rang. It was an old friend in California whom I hadn’t spoken to in a long time.

He said, “Dude, what the f**ck, I just read you’re dying.”

I said, “Oh, you saw my tweet thread?”

He said, “No. It was included in an article that came across my feed. It was all about claims that you guys are Nazis. What the f**ck is going on?”

That’s something I’ve asked myself a lot the last year: What the f**ck is going on?

I’m unfortunately no stranger to conspiracies. When I was a kid my father was murdered. He was an offshore powerboat builder and world-champion racer. Due to his high-profile lifestyle, the wildness of the 1980s in Miami, and the fact that his case was unsolved for years, a lot of conspiracy theories started circulating around him. Books were written about those theories. Documentaries were made. Rambling, incoherent websites went up. Even after the hitman and the man who hired him were arrested and imprisoned, crackpots kept inventing stranger and stranger lies. Kids at school would say, “I heard your dad was smuggling drugs for the CIA?” or “I heard your dad worked for the cartels and was killed by the mob?” It went on for years like that. Every time I’d tell my mother she would say, “The truth will come out in time.”

As if a testament to how little the truth has won during the three decades since, a couple of years ago John Travolta played my father in a motion picture explicitly based on one of those conspiracy books. It was heartbreaking to my mother.

Unpacking the insanity of “What the f**k is going on?” and the wild conspiracy theory that we’re orchestrating some super-secret Nazi troll, which has already been debunked by the ADL [Anti-Defamation League], is really not how I saw my first week of healing going. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do, because two things have become clear to me:

1. I’m never going to be able to let this go and heal until I set the record straight.

2. The truth doesn’t come out by itself.

So what the f**k is going on?

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. Everything I’m writing here is verifiable and true, and I will soon call out this utter bulls**t under oath, too.

Over the past year, my co-founders and I have been the subject of a conspiracy that we’re supposedly secret, alt-right, esoteric, Nazi pedophiles who encoded secret Nazi messages on behalf of several extremely fringe alt-right or far-right internet groups.

According to the conspiracy, we intentionally included obscure references to [Adolf] Hitler in the BAYC collection – apparently the bunny ears trait and the Bored Ape Kennel Club refer to the Hitler bunny ears meme and the fact that Hitler liked dogs, that the alligators in the swamp are references to Hitler’s pet alligator named Saturn, that the cyborg eyes trait refers to a Cyborg Hitler meme, that the astronaut suit trait is a reference to a Space Hitler meme, that the baby bonnet trait is a reference to a meme about Hitler’s childhood, that the DMT trait and the Trippy fur trait are references to a meme about Hitler tripping on acid, that the dresses in the collection are references to a meme about Hitler liking to cross-dress, and that an ape playing the banjo in the background of the Rolling Stones cover we did is a reference to a meme about Hitler playing the banjo, and the fact that we held an event in Miami, our hometown, was somehow a reference to Hitler’s yacht being sunk off the coast of Miami.

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

But these lies don’t just live on the internet. We’ve received death threats on multiple occasions, even just yesterday. We’ve had people show up at our houses. This must stop.

Debunking the bulls**t

For starters, give me a f**king break. All four co-founders, including myself, are almost comically liberal. We have all previously donated and voted exclusively to and for progressive candidates, for years. (I voted for Bernie [Sanders when he ran for president], twice. In fact, my second date with my partner of four years was to one of his rallies.) You can type our full names here and look up our donation histories for yourselves.

Secondly, I’m an Ashkenazi Jew by heritage. (You can see on my father’s Wikipedia page that he was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants.) And my co-founders are all children of immigrants: Greg is a first-generation Cuban-American. Kerem is a first-generation Turkish-American. Zeshan is a first-generation Guatemalan-Pakistani.

Despite facing all these absurd allegations and being in the public eye for over a year, not a single person who has ever known me or any of my co-founders has corroborated these bogus claims.

Do you know what I’ve always found super ironic? 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 s**t on Hitler. The conspiracy theorists don’t like to mention it much, though.

The two items that are the focus of the most frequent lies: our company name, Yuga Labs, and the BAYC Logo. I’ll dive deep into both of those here, but first, let me debunk some of the other claims.

Bored Apes:

BAYC was created as an homage to the energy and excitement of Crypto Twitter. Early crypto and NFT (non-fungible token) adopters were worth millions, yet showcased fun anime or animal profile pictures on Twitter. Instead of f**cking off to the south of France with their newly made fortune, they were up late posting memes and looking for people to play League of Legends with. They were bored. It was an absolutely fascinating culture to encounter when we first did in 2017. And like the retail stock traders of Reddit’s r/wallstreetbets, many crypto traders thought of themselves as “apes.” To "ape" meant to go apes**t and buy something without any due diligence. Ape, as in, “I just aped into this s**tcoin.”

It’s one of the reasons why in CryptoPunks, one of the earliest and most beloved NFT collections, the apes are some of the rarest and most valuable NFTs in the whole set. For the same reason, AMC Theaters recently named a new stock dividend: APE.

So we came up with the idea of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, with the “Yacht Club” being set as a decrepit swamp bar in the Everglades. It was our way of showing that this was meant to be fun and irreverent, and a jab at the culture of shilling cryptocurrencies that would “go to the moon” and enable everyone to get lambos and … yachts.

And as for the apes themselves, we worked to create a diverse set of 170 mixing and matching traits, with everything from punk leather jackets and Guayaberas to vintage military gear to prom dresses and rainbow suspenders. We wanted to evoke the countercultures we grew up admiring: 1980s hardcore punk, 1990s hip hop and Warhol’s 1969 Factory parties where you’d see bankers hanging out with leather daddies and outlaw bikers all while the Velvet Underground played.

The collection was intended to be irreverent and punk rock, but was never intended to offend anyone – and it's certainly not part of an elaborate alt-right trolling campaign. That being said, if even ONE person has been offended by the art, I want you to know that was never our intent. And we always have been open to good faith feedback if the collection offends someone.

A good example of this is when we launched the Bored Ape Kennel Club charity "adoption drive" over a year ago. The initial collection included a Rising Sun Flag. We had seen the flag in Street Fighter, saw that the flag was still being used in Japan today, and wanted to pay homage to the origins of the Shiba Inu. However, we were not aware of the weight that the flag holds for a large portion of the Asian community. So we owned up to this error and provided an option for the community to switch the trait post-mint (statement from 6/28/2021 below).

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Sushi Chef headband:

At the time of launching BAYC, SushiSwap was a popular decentralized exchange (or DEX). We liked the idea of including an homage to the DEX in the form of one of our traits, and so we created the "Sushi Chef Headband." Honestly, we just googled it quickly for reference on this. We certainly weren’t trying to reference any obscure alt-right memes. These hachimaki are worn all over the world. We’ve been told that the version in our collection says "Divine Wind," which is the same as what Kamikaze pilots wore. This headband has become a part of pop culture and is still sold and worn today. It wasn’t intended to offend anyone or be some secret code to fascism.

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Hawaiian shirts:

It’s claimed the Hawaiian shirt in the collection (again, one of 170 possible traits) is a reference to far/alt-right morons called Boogaloos who go to rallies with semi-automatic weapons and Hawaiian shirts. That group literally never crossed our minds when selecting the Hawaiian shirts. The Hawaiian shirt in our collection is one of the first Hawaiian shirts that pop up when you google “Hawaiian shirt.” Why? Because it’s the Hawaiian shirt Tom Selleck wore in "Magnum PI," and thus probably one of the most famous Hawaiian shirts of all time. All for canceling the man because nobody should have a mustache that glorious, but give me a break. It’s a “Yacht Club” and we think it looks great as a clothing trait.

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Names:

It’s claimed our pseudonyms were intentionally crafted to be obscure racist references. That is categorically false.

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  • Emperor Tomato Ketchup – It’s a super popular Stereolab album (Pitchfork ranked it 51st of the decade) and Kerem is a mega-nerdy vinyl record collector, as literally anyone who knows him will attest. His love of collecting vinyl has been referenced on our homepage since day one. He did not know it was also a reference to some controversial and experimental 1970s Japanese art film, and had never heard of that film before all this bulls**t started. Everyone just calls him “Tomato.”
  • Gargamel – Greg likes Starcraft. Smurfs are a thing in Starcraft. This is also literally referenced on our homepage from day one. When we were launching BAYC, he found out his wife had never seen the show Smurfs before, so they started watching it together. Also, has Hank Azaria been canceled for playing Gargamel in the 2011 live-action Smurfs film? If so, nobody told us. And also, this is Greg. (He gave me permission to post this.) Let the man own a self-effacing joke about being short and bald without being called a Nazi.
  • GordonGoner – The claims go that my name was intentionally an anagram for “drongo negro.” I, like everyone else I’ve ever met, had never heard of the Australian slang word "drongo" before. If you Google it, nearly every reference is to it being a type of bird. The claims go that this is a popular alt-right phrase on 4chan. Except, someone did the research and discovered those two words had never been used together on 4chan before the conspiracy began. I liked GordonGoner because I was extremely sick for 10 years (which I talk about more in detail here) and thought of myself as a "goner." I liked that it sounded like a classic punk rock sobriquet, like Sid Vicious or Johnny Rotten or Joey Ramone.
  • No Sass – It’s been claimed that Sass is some kind of abbreviated amalgamation reference to two (sometimes three?) separate Nazi things. This one kind of leaves me speechless in its absurdity. I was just sassy as f**ck the morning we were choosing our names and Zeshan picked the name as a joke.

Cute bonus pic of all of us at Zeshan’s wedding last year. Also evidence I am a giant.

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Prussian helmet:

It’s been claimed that the Prussian hat variable in the collection is a reference to Nazis. Except: The ADL has already rebuffed this claim and a senior fellow said, “Imperial Germany is two governments before the Nazis” and “other Imperial German images, like the Pickelhaube, are not at all associated with Nazis.” We didn’t include it in the collection as some kind of obscure reference to the alt/far-right. There’s even a modern-day garage rock album by King Khan and BBQ Show, where Khan, a Canadian-Indian man, wears a helmet on the cover.

If the hat looks pretty familiar to you, it might be because that’s the album cover for one of the most popular TikTok songs of all time, with over 20 million views. All videos using the song have the album cover in the lower left-hand corner. As well, many countries still use this helmet, including Chile, Portugal, Colombia, Sweden, Jordan, the U.K. and more. The helmet is a trait in the BAYC collection for the same reason there’s an S&M hat or Soviet Ushanka or Army Hat or Fez or Caesar's laurel wreath or a Vietnam helmet or Beanie or Captain’s Hat: we thought they looked iconic and kind of punk rock. Probably the same reason Khan wears it.

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Ana Montes:

This one is truly bizarre. The claim is that Greg’s aunt is some infamous Cuban spy. How that relates to Nazism I’m unclear. Except, oh wait, this one isn’t true either! Not his aunt. We have no idea who this lady is.

A bad Koda name:

More recently, someone raised concern about a trait name in the Otherdeed NFT collection as being offensive. There’s a trait on a Koda (little creatures who live in Otherside) titled “Stone Hole Jackson.” This is one of over 1,000 uniquely named traits in the collection and was named by a Yuga staff writer (not a founder.) We had at first understood this as a reference to Jackson Hole, Wyoming: There are “holes” in the Koda, as you can see in the image below, and this type of Koda was meant to exist on the Sulfuric lands. The thinking went – sulfur, geysers, holes, Jackson Hole. It’s important to note that every trait in the collection underwent several rounds of review by multiple sensitivity readers, and no one caught it. It wasn’t until the collection was revealed that someone pointed out that this trait could also refer to the Civil War general Stonewall Jackson, which we realized it was obviously also referencing in hindsight. So when we updated the provenance of the collection, we renamed the trait to simply “Stone Holes.”

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Cowabunga:

The conspiracy theory correlates Greg’s wife using the phrase “Cowabunga” in her Instagram bio as some kind of source of proof she’s also a Neo-Nazi, because apparently Cowabunga has ALSO been co-opted by some fringe alt-right internet groups. For the record: Cowabunga was popularized by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Greg’s wife is a Mexican-American woman who is also extremely liberal. To quote Greg, with her permission, “She cried when Al Gore lost [the U.S. presidential election in 2000] when she was 9.”

Puzzles:

It’s been claimed that the answers to the puzzles in our Treasure Hunt game last year were somehow secret neo-Nazi codes. But that ignores that blatantly obvious fact that every puzzle answer was a monkey or ape pun: Guenon is the name of a monkey species, Aperol has APE in the name, etc. To even pull the puzzles off we had to bring in a pro. We are way too dumb to solve complex puzzles, let alone make them. A company called Exaltation of Larks put the whole thing together and the guy behind it, Greg Pliska, is a brilliant and amazing puzzle maker. None of the founders could have made or solved those puzzles. The claim that this puzzle was somehow another example of hidden messages in our work has been debunked before, the partner we worked with confirmed that we didn’t have anything to do with the answers. After we made a statement about it in the last letter, here is what the puzzle-maker said on Twitter:

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BAYC 'patch' logo:

We've been accused of drawing inspiration for our patch variation logo from a Nazi emblem and that we gave the Bored Ape skull 18 teeth as an obscure reference to Hitler. This is emphatically false. We have or will repeat this fact under oath.

When the ADL spoke about this subject in February 2022, it said that there was no connection between the BAYC patch logo and the Totenkopf Nazi icon. But the conspiracy theory ignores this fact and points to the “motorcycle patch” layout as "proof" that we intentionally referenced the Nazi emblem (and are therefore secret Neo-Nazis).

Why did we choose an ape skull? It’s called the “Bored Ape Yacht Club,” and we liked the idea that the apes were “Bored to Death.” In fact, that phrase is something we used on some of our merch designs.

To accept the conspiracy theory, you’d have to ignore that the layout is nearly identical to tens of thousands of other motorcycle club patch logos, and similar to many other punk rock-inspired lockups and maritime patches. The below examples were not hard to find, and there are literally about a thousand others we could have included:

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In our previous post, I shared the email that served as the initial creative brief for our logo designer. Here are the different options she came back with given the direction we’d supplied, dated 03/30/21:

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You can see an early version of the circular patch logo here, along with an alternate version that shows it more like a poker chip. We ended up digging the simpler version without the poker chip lines – this was meant to be a punk dive bar in the swamp, and this version of the patch logo felt punk rock enough (like The Misfits logo). It also felt crusty and old-school, like something out of a swampy motorcycle club. Most motorcycle clubs will have an “MC” on one side of the logo, so you can see how we ended up with BA and YC on each side. This simple Google search of “motorcycle club logos” may be helpful for anyone unfamiliar with this standard design layout.

The freelance designer who worked on the logos said the following in an email recapping the process:

“You'll see that there are a number of different circular 'patch' designs. I ended up going with the layout that you have today since 1) it felt the cleanest/most legible and, 2) it's a pretty standard lockup in the design community, meaning it was easy to put together and we were on such a crunched timeline for this project (y'all wanted everything in like 2 days lol). I added the roughened effect around the edges simply because I didn't want it to feel too clean.”

Emphasis on the phrase “...standard lockup in the design community.”

And just to show how insanely popular this lockup is, here are two examples I randomly spotted in Whole Foods. If you just start looking around your hometown for design layouts that look identical, you’ll start seeing it everywhere.

(Screenshot by Yuga Labs)
(Screenshot by Yuga Labs)

Kali Yuga

Let’s start with this: Go ahead and Google the term Kali Yuga and read about what it means for yourself.

One of the recurring claims is that our name is a reference to two fringe alt-right internet groups that have appropriated and co-opted the Sanskrit Hindu term “Kali Yuga.”

None of the founders had ever heard of those groups before these conspiracy theories started and, like most people, we never knew the term Kali Yuga was being used by ANY hate group, however fringe. "Yuga" roughly translates to "era" in Sanskrit. We are building a company for a new "era" of the internet: Web3. It’s also the name of a Zelda character that turns things into 2D art, which is exactly what our business does.

Quick history lesson from someone who has been part of or adjacent to Hinduism for over 20 years: Kali Yuga is an ancient Sanskrit term denoting the fourth of the Yuga cycles, and the cycle we are currently in for the next 400,000 years or so. There are three other Yugas: Krita, Treta and Dvapra. This is an important aspect of Hindu cosmology as each Yuga has very different characteristics and methods for spiritual development.

Let me be clear: Neither Yuga nor Kali Yuga is a term of hate. At the time of my writing this, the Kali Yuga Wikipedia page doesn’t even find its connection to fringe alt-right internet groups relevant enough to mention it. (I’m sure trolls will attempt to edit the wiki asap.) That’s how obscure the term’s connection to hate groups actually is. Kali Yuga is believed to be an era where it’s difficult to perform our Dharma (spiritual duty) due to increased conflict and strife. The common belief is that most spiritual methods no longer work in this era. But it’s also a very beautiful era, because in the Kali Yuga, many Vedic scholars believe we have one method that is extremely effective: Bhakti, or loving devotion. It’s sad that some fringe alt-right groups have tried co-opting a term with such a profound religious significance.

And if you ask one of the billion Hindus in the world what these terms mean, they would tell you just that. (And they might be just as surprised and offended as I am by the co-opting of its meaning by internet trolls.) But if you ask those who attack us, we named our company Yuga Labs because of an obscure phrase from some now-defunct alt-right Telegram group.

I became familiar with the terms “Yuga” and “Kali Yuga” as part of my journey within Hinduism. I grew up right next door to a Hindu temple, hanging with the monks and chanting the Mahamantra with my Tulsi bead mala my brother gave me when I was nine, and discussing the Bhagavad Gita with them. (There was even an influential Krishnacore punk scene and that music meant a lot to me growing up.) I’ve understood the Hindu concept of Kali Yuga for over 20 years. One of my best friends of 20 years was a Hindu monk. Hindu philosophical concepts such as Karma, Dharma, Samsara, Moksha, Yugas, Gunas, Vedanta, the four Yogas, Ahimsa (non-violence) and so on are concepts I talk to my friends about; my spiritual practice is something I take seriously.

As anyone who knows me would attest, this stuff is a huge part of my private life and has been for many years. I’m not claiming to be an Orthodox Hindu; I’m a secular guy who gravitated towards Buddhism as I’ve gotten older. My spiritual beliefs have become more personal and less dogmatic as I’ve matured. For instance, despite being vegetarian for many years out of a sense of religious duty, I eat meat now, because I believe it’s good for my health (on top of heart failure, I also have a serious bowel disease I’m frequently hospitalized for, and without meat, I simply waste away.)

As ridiculously invasive as it is for me to feel I need to prove my personal spiritual beliefs, here’s a screenshot of a receipt for a Hindu worship ritual called a puja, which I donated to be performed at the Sri Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir (Temple) in India back in 2017.

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Now, I’ve actually sponsored countless Hindu pujas (rituals) and donated thousands of dollars towards yajnas (fire rituals) for Brahmin priests to perform in India over the years. These pujas have been such a recurring spiritual practice for me over the last decade, that I’ve even begun learning to perform simple yajnas myself at home. But this particular puja I’m screenshotting has a special meaning, so I thought it was appropriate: Narasimha (sometimes referred to as Nrisimha) is the “protector of devotees” and it is the common belief that he is very ferocious with non-devotees. So, all in all, it’d be an absurdly f**cking bizarre thing for me to sponsor back in 2017 if I didn’t actually believe in it, and certainly not something someone using Kali Yuga in some ironic neo-Nazi way would have done.

Again, I’ll say all of this under oath.

Oddly enough, Greg proposed Yuga as the company name. He knew the word Yuga meant something to me. We had discussed Kali Yuga as a spiritual principle many times before, and he knew the Sanskrit word Yuga means “era” and that we were going to create things for a new era of the internet (Web3). Add to that the Zelda character named Yuga who can turn people in 2D art. And the fact that the name just sounded very f****** cool and unique. Despite all these insane allegations, we still love the name and the rich meaning behind it.

Now, at some point, the conspiracies focused on this Kali Yuga stuff because my entire old, deactivated and deleted Twitter account was published. This had “Kali Yuga” as the location tag and the Wheel of Samsara as its header image (a spiritual representation of the transmigration of the soul). Again, stuff I genuinely believe in.

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As evidence of that, you can go ahead and read literally every single tweet from that account here. You’ll see that I supported Bernie Sanders (and tweeted about my support for him 91 times), I supported AOC [U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], and I supported Nina Turner [who ran for secretary of state in Ohio]. I made anti-racist tweets, mocked those who got upset that Confederate statues were being torn down, and mocked racists who were bullying [Nascar driver] Bubba Wallace. You’ll see horrible crypto price predictions from years ago, and that I can be cringe. You’ll see that I’m human. You’ll see I had opinions and flippant thoughts on s**t you might disagree with, like for instance, how much I disliked [Donald] Trump and [Joe] Biden, and that I liked listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast (I’ve been pretty open about how I’ve done DMT and other hallucinogens.) You’ll see that I liked talking about fiction and movies and cracking jokes. You’ll see that I liked Buddhist/Hindu spiritual memes. In general, you’ll see that I am basically the antithesis of everything the conspiracy theory is about, so much that after reading all about the conspiracy theory, one even had to publicly admit I must not be a neo-Nazi, stating “He’s a died (sic) in the wool leftie. Not right-leaning at all, including alt-right.” Taken as a whole, I think it’s blatantly obvious I held leftist views that are the polar opposite of far/alt-right assholes.

Another point I’d like to make: Sometimes these allegations reference that we didn’t mention the Sanskrit "Yuga means Era" meaning behind our name until much later, that at first we simply highlighted the Zelda reference. The answer to that is simple: We were being attacked for months with the allegation that "Kali Yuga" was only some kind of co-opted term associated with obscure internet hate groups.

The western world doesn’t, by and large, know the term at all, let alone the authentic meaning of the term. And we were being accused of all kinds of crazy s**t. We felt overwhelmed by it all. So we debunked the claims in the page-long document we shared above, because any more at the time felt like giving the conspiracy way more attention than it deserved. Debunking claims made about Kali Yuga would have required me to explain my entire spiritual background and give a crash course on the Yuga cycles, which, ironically, is exactly what I feel compelled to do now.

Our logic was that any sane human being would have accepted the fact that I’m Jewish by heritage and that my co-founders are all children of immigrants, and that should have been enough evidence that we weren’t secret Neo-Nazis. How wrong we were!

The sad reality to all of this is that ANY personal information about us gets twisted into some sick and bizarre "seven degrees of Hitler" by conspiracy theorists. Despite all I have written here to set the record straight, someone is going to twist and turn everything I’ve written here and try to use it against us. Likely, a reporter or two will as well, at least that’s been our experience. We’re fully prepared for that. We have been constantly attacked for over a year and it’s thickened our skin. I do, oddly enough, feel sad for those who seem to only have this conspiracy as their reason for being. It sounds like a dark and miserable way to live.

Last point: If you think I’m a deeply left-leaning person, deeply into Hinduism and Buddhism for years, but somehow would want to troll people with obscure and fringe alt/far-right secret coded messages, I think you have a f**cking screw loose.

Back to healing

So that’s about it. I'm not a Nazi. I have heart failure. I look like a giant in photos.

I get that a lot of the broader world doesn’t understand crypto or NFTs. I get the skepticism. There are a lot of bad actors in the space and the recent collapse of FTX makes the industry look like a f**cking cesspit of phonies. But whether you choose to believe it or not: we’ve done everything straight up. Whether you dig NFTs or not: we run an honest company and built an honest product that a lot of diverse people from all over the world love.

These aren’t all people who bought an NFT to flip it for a quick buck. They bought them because they believe in the principles of Web3 and crypto and fell in love with their digital identity and what it meant to be part of a tribe, especially when the world was a lonelier place and people were trapped inside their homes.

And even if you disagree with all that and just want to mock NFTs anyway, fine. Or maybe you find something personally problematic in the artwork and want to have an honest conversation about that, fine. But we, our families, and our employees didn’t deserve this absurd year-long campaign of conspiracy theories, lies and harassment, and we don’t deserve journalists smearing our names all in service of the same.

Over the past two years, despite everything we were going through, despite my health tanking to the point where I may only have a few years left to live, and all the hard work that went into the products and events we created, we still managed to do a lot of good for the world. In just our first months we raised over a million dollars for animal charities. Later we donated a million to Ukraine at the outset of the war. We pledged 6.25% of Yuga Labs’ holdings of ApeCoin to the Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation, which at the time of writing has a value of $52 million. We’re also in the throes of our $1 million pledge to the Miami community to support arts and education for our hometown. I’m proud of the work we have done and the impact we’ve had on the NFT industry and I believe Yuga will continue to be at the forefront of the metaverse for many years to come.

I'm well aware that talking about all this shows how exasperated we’ve been at different points, it’s embarrassing and exposing, but I want to end by saying that the overwhelming feeling I have these days is gratitude. When we started Yuga, we knew we had a great idea, and we knew there was a community of people out there who would respond to this idea, but what it has become has exceeded even our wildest dreams. While I certainly wish I had taken better care of myself during this ride, I am so proud of what Yuga continues to build and the ambition it’s pursuing to shape the metaverse and beyond. I’m also incredibly grateful for the people I was able to meet along the way. The other day, when I announced my heart condition, thousands of people wrote to me: thanking me, wishing me well and offering support. You cannot imagine how much that meant to me. The passionate, creative and positive Web3 community will remain part of my life even in this new chapter.

But now that I’ve set the record straight on this I need to log off and get back to taking care of my health.

All love,

Wylie Aronow


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Wylie  Aronow

Wylie Aronow is one of the co-founders of Yuga Labs and co-creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.