Dave Chappelle Declines Having His Name Attached to Duke Ellington School After 'Closer' Backlash
© AP Photo / Evan AgostiniDave Chappelle speaks at the press conference for "A Star Is Born" on day 4 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in Toronto.
© AP Photo / Evan Agostini
Chappelle is considered one of the more recognizable graduates of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the institution. He graduated from the school in 1991.
Comedian Dave Chappelle announced late Monday that he has decided against having his name on a theatre building at his alma mater after facing months of backlash over comments he made during a Netflix special.
The announcement was aired by Chappelle during a dedication ceremony held at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC. The performing arts theatre was intended to be named the "Dave Chappelle Theatre" but will instead be named "Theater of Artistic Freedom & Expression."
Chappelle most recently drew public ire after he made jokes during his latest Netflix special "Closer" that were deemed transphobic, with the topic growing more tense after his November visit to his alma mater saw students blast him for his remarks and accused him of endangering trans lives.
Addressing the backlash, Chappelle told the audience that while the criticism he faced lacked nuance, he ultimately did not want his name on the building to detract from the work being done at the arts school. The decision was officially made on Friday, he told eventgoers.
"No matter what they say about 'The Closer,' it is still [one of the] most watched specials on Netflix," he told the crowd. "The more you say I can't say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can't say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression."
He further noted that his decision on the renaming was not an all-out rejection but rather his intent to defer out of the respect for the institution.
At one point during the announcement, Chappelle remarked that the students who called him out last November had "sincerely" hurt him, and that they "didn't understand that they were instruments of artistic oppression."
In the fallout stemming from the Netflix special, the streaming giant saw several hundred of its employees stage walk outs over its poor efforts to handle complaints from the show. Days before the walk-outs, a Netflix employee had been fired for allegedly leaking financial disclosures about the Chappelle special, an accusation the former employee later rejected.