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Everything to know about Netflix’s Dave Chappelle problem

October 16, 2021, 4:33 AM UTC

Netflix, already in a firestorm over releasing a show in which comedian Dave Chappelle mocked transgender people, threw more gas onto the flames Friday when, according to The Verge, it fired the leader of its trans employee resource group who was organizing a worker walkout to protest the stand-up routine.

Here’s what you need to know.

How it started

Chappelle’s special, The Closer, released by Netflix on Oct. 5, immediately drew ire for his remarks mocking transgender people. Netflix employees complained on social media, while LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition took Netflix to task for the comedian’s comments. In a statement to Deadline, NBJC’s executive director David Johns called for Netflix to remove the show from the platform. “With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States — the majority of whom are Black transgender people — Netflix should know better. Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence,” he said.

Netflix’s response

On October 8, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos tried to tamp down internal unrest by sending emails, one to top leadership and a second one to employees, in which he stated that he believes the content in The Closer won’t directly translate into real-world harm for trans people. “Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others,” Sarandos wrote, according to Variety.

In an email excerpt posted by Vulture, Sarandos said that “Netflix strives to support creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful,” and added that “particularly in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally as the goals are different.”

Amid the uproar, Netflix executives have decided to host an internal event with trans activist Alok Vaid-Menon, according to Bloomberg

Rising tensions

Disappointed by management’s response, some Netflix employees began planning a walkout for Oct. 20. Netflix ended up suspending three of the organizers after accusing them of crashing a meeting they weren’t invited to. However, the next day, after one of the suspended employees threatened on Twitter to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and after the tech news site The Verge reported about the suspension, Netflix reinstated the employees.

But on Friday, Netflix fired the head of its trans employee resource group for allegedly leaking internal metrics about The Closer with media outlet Bloomberg, according to The Verge. In a statement to the media, Netflix said, without identifying the employee, “We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.”

More than 1,000 Netflix employees are said to be planning to participate in the virtual walkout. While away from their desks, those participants intend to focus on charities that help the trans community, according to the Hollywood Reporter

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