The weeks-long saga between Dave Chapelle and Netflix employees over the comedian’s recent special, The Closer, may be coming to an end — for now.
Two former Netflix employees who helped ignite a movement within the streaming service over anti-trans jokes in Dave Chappelle’s special, The Closer, have reportedly withdrawn a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Netflix retaliated against them for speaking out.
In the complaint, filed in late October, Terra Field and B. Pagel-Minor alleged that Netflix took action against them “to quell [them] from speaking up about working conditions,” including voicing concerns about the “impact” Netflix’s content has on the LGBTQ community.
Both Field and Pagel-Minor confirmed the withdrawal of the labor charge, reports the Los Angeles Times. Both of them, as well as Netflix, declined to answer questions from the outlet about whether there was a settlement involved and if any changes were made internally to Netflix's policies or practices, as noted in the complaint.
“We have resolved our differences in a way that acknowledges the erosion of trust on both sides and, we hope, enables everyone to move on,” Netflix said in a statement on Monday.
Field was placed on administrative leave last month for allegedly crashing a business meeting at Netflix to protest Chappelle’s special. However, she argued in the NLRB complaint, the meeting was open to “hundreds of other Netflix employees.” Field was later reinstated following a public outcry, but this week announced she was resigning from her post permanently.
“I resigned from Netflix yesterday,” Field wrote on Twitter alongside a link to her resignation letter. “I'm not happy that this is how things turned out, but I do think this outcome is the best for all parties involved.”
Pagel-Minor, who is Black and nonbinary, was pregnant when Netflix terminated their employment last month (and has since given birth). They were fired for allegedly leaking confidential information about Netflix’s data to the media, which they have denied doing.
Netflix has denied all accusations suggesting that it fired employees for speaking their truth: “We recognize the hurt and pain caused to our trans colleagues over the last few weeks,” a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times in October. “But we want to make clear that Netflix has not taken any action against employees for either speaking up or walking out.”
Meanwhile, despite the upheaval — and the numerous activists who say Chappelle’s jokes cause real-world harm to trans youth — the comedian doesn’t seem to be bothered.
On Monday, at the screening of his new documentary Untitled at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Chappelle was no-holds-barred, reportedly using the anti-gay "f-slur" and making jokes about people’s use of various pronouns, as well as pretending to identify as a woman to get a cushier prison cell, making it clear that he is not about to pull LGBTQ jokes from his lineup.
Last month, while inducting Jay-Z into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in a ceremony that aired this past Saturday on HBO), only a few weeks after Netflix employees and trans allies staged a walkout to protest his special, Chappelle seemed to poke fun at the issue.
“I would like to apologize to — nah, I’m just fu**in’ with ya,” Chappelle said at the beginning of his speech.
The outcry over Chappelle’s special first gained momentum in October, when queer activists and allies, including Netflix employees, spoke out about how Chappelle’s jokes in The Closer could potentially harm the trans community. The furor led to a walk-out, organized by Pagels-Minor, and later managed by activist Ashlee Marie Preston.
During the special, Chappelle touched on several hot-button issues, including DaBaby’s recent off-base comments about HIV, J.K. Rowling’s controversial anti-trans statements in 2019, cancel culture as a whole and his personal experience with the transgender community — including the loss of a dear friend who died by suicide, allegedly after being bullied online for defending him.
In the wake of the controversy, Netflix's co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent out a memo siding with the comedian in defense of creative freedom, writing, "Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him." Of internal concerns, he added, "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."
Sarandos later admitted that he failed to recognize how his choice impacted employees. “I screwed up the internal communication — and I don’t mean just mechanically,” he told Varietyat the time. “I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.”
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In a video clip posted to Instagram last month, Chappelle remained unapologetic about the special, saying, "I said what I said, and boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I'm the only one that can't go to the office anymore.”
He added, “Everyone I know from that community has been nothing but loving and supportive. So I don't know what this nonsense is about,” noting that if Netflix employees were to meet with him, he would have several conditions conditions for them, including "you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end."
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