Netflix employees walk out over Chappelle comedy special

Netflix co-Chief Executive Officer Ted Sarandos has defended the company’s decision to air the special.

People attend a rally in protest of a Dave Chappelle comedy special that featured jokes about trans people [Mario Anzuoni/Reuters]

Netflix Inc. employees are planning to walk-out of the company’s Los Gatos, California, headquarters Wednesday to protest a controversial Dave Chappelle comedy special that featured jokes at the expense of trans people. A separate rally will also take place in Los Angeles on Wednesday to support the worker-planned event.

The company’s trans resource group organized the event last week amid an internal outcry over the continued release of programming with transphobic messaging. Netflix co-Chief Executive Officer Ted Sarandos has defended the company’s decision to air the special, stating in multiple memos, the platform would not remove it, denying that the jokes would lead to “real-world harm.” In a Tuesday interview with Variety, Sarandos said he “screwed up the internal communication,” adding, “I should have led with a lot more humanity.”

A Netflix spokesperson told Bloomberg News that the company values its trans colleagues and respects the decision of employees who choose to walk-out. The company also acknowledged it has more work to do within Netflix and in its content.

Employees have said they are not specifically asking for the special to be removed from the platform, but want acknowledgement of the content’s harm and more support for LGBTQ workers and talent. In a Medium post, Netflix engineer Terra Field, who had criticized the special on Twitter, listed a series of asks for the company, such as providing content warnings in front of its offerings that contain transphobia.

“Of course storytelling has real impact in the real world,” Sarandos said in the Variety interview. Members of both the Black @ Netflix and Trans* employee groups had previously met with company leadership to discuss another Chappelle special and to express dismay that the company continues to release programming with transphobic sentiments, a person familiar with the events told Bloomberg.

The walkout Wednesday will take place both virtually and in-person, a person familiar with the plans told Bloomberg. Those working from home will change their statuses on Slack and company profiles to unavailable.

The rally is open to the public and actors and celebrities who’ve worked with Netflix, including Angelica Ross, Jonathan Van Ness, Eureka O’Hara, Jameela Jamil and Colton Haynes, will appear in a PSA that will play during the event. The organizer will also present Sarandos with “a list of firm asks.”

LGBTQ activists and groups such as GLAAD, a media watchdog, have also criticized Netflix for the special.

Source: Bloomberg