Chappelle/Netflix Update: 3 Suspended for Attempting to Crash Meeting

Update: Following up on reports earlier today that Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos had expressed his & the streamer's support for comedian Dave Chappelle and his stand-up special The Closer (original reporting below), Variety reports that Netflix suspended three employees for attempting to attend the streamer's quarterly business review, a two-day event attended by the top 500 employees at the streamer. One of the employees suspended was senior software engineer Terra Field, who identifies as queer and trans, had recently taken to Twitter to call out Chappelle for his comments during his special (see the start of the Twitter thread below). For their part, Netflix made it clear in a statement that Field's tweets were not the reason for the suspension but the attempt to attend the corporate meeting: "It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so."

Original Report: Last week, we reported on how Dave Chappelle was facing backlash for comments he made during his recent Netflix stand-up special The Closer. Many on social media & within the LGBTQ+ community as well a number of LGBTQ+-supporting organizations (GLAAD, National Black Justice Coalition & others) are demanding that the streaming service pull the special over what they say were hate-filled comments meant to attack the trans community and others. But based on a memo reportedly from Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos that was sent to staff on Friday (and obtained by Variety), the special and Chappelle aren't going anywhere.

"Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don't allow titles Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don't believe 'The Closer' crosses that line. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it's an important part of our content offering," Sarandos reportedly wrote, arguing the importance of artistic freedom in making the decision. "Externally, particularly in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace." Here's a look at the full text of the email reportedly sent:

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Image: Screencap

I wanted to follow-up on the "The Closer" — Dave Chappelle's latest special — as several of you have reached out following QBR asking what to say to your teams. It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues, so I wanted to give you some additional context. You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.

Chapelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. His last special "Sticks & Stones," also controversial, is our most watched., stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date. As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful, like "Cuties," "365 Days," "13 Reasons Why" or "My Unorthodox Life."

Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don't allow titles Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don't believe The Closer crosses that line. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it's an important part of our content offering.

In terms of our commitment to inclusion, we're working hard to ensure more people see their lives reflected on screen and that under-represented communities are not defined by the single story. So we're proud of titles like "Sex Education," "Young Royals," "Control Z" and "Disclosure." Externally, particularly in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace.

Today's conversation on Entertain the World was timely. These are hard and uncomfortable issues. We all bring different values and perspectives so thank you for being part of the conversation as it's important we're clear about our operating principles.

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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