“To the staff, the artists and our community, we hear you and are sorry,” First Avenue said in a statement posted on social media less than three hours before the show was scheduled to start. “We know we have to hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we’re letting you down. We are not just a black box with people in, and we understand that First Ave is not just a room, but it is meaningful outside our walls.”
The place, famous for appearing in Prince’s 1984 film “Purple Rain”, added that while he believed in diverse voices and freedom of artistic expression, “we lost sight of the impact” of Chappelle’s confinement to society.
We know that there are those who will not agree with this decision. You are welcome to send in your feedback,” First Avenue wrote.
A representative for Chappelle did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Thursday.
Chappelle has faced criticism for comments that LGBT advocacy groups say may incite mischief against transgender people. As part of The Closer, Chappelle joked about transgender genitals, said “gender is real” and told his audience that he was on “Team TERF,” an acronym for Radical Trans-Exclusion Feminism. The comedian also defended J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” books, who has been criticized for making statements seen as transphobic. Chappelle joked about the transgender community in the past, including in his 2019 special, “Sticks and Stones.”
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GLAAD, a media watchdog, previously accused Chappelle of possessing “anti-gay and transgender content” that violates Netflix’s policy to reject programs that incite hatred or violence. The National Coalition for Black Justice, a civil rights advocacy group, last year called on Netflix to immediately withdraw the special and “offer a direct apology to the transgender community.”
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has repeatedly defended the comedian, saying last year that “creative freedom” was one reason the company didn’t cancel the special. Sarandos acknowledged that although some people may find Chappelle’s attitude “mean,” “our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
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Fallout from your has happened throughout the past year. After the Duke Ellington School of Art in Northwest Washington plans to dedicate a student theater to the comedian, Chappelle unexpectedly announced last month that he would not bear his name. Chappelle declined the honor amid controversy over his Netflix special last year at a time when Ellington students have also raised concerns.
Chappelle has been upfront about the backlash, telling Ellington fans last month that criticism “honestly” offended him but lacked nuance and not related to his work.
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In announcing the cancellation Wednesday, First Avenue said the Chappelle show has been moved to the Varsity Theatre, where all tickets for the show will be honored. Chappelle was already scheduled to perform at the Varsity Theater on Thursday and Friday.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Varsity Theater to oppose Chappelle, many of them chanting, “Trans rights matter!” They hold signs that read “Transphobia is no joke.” One Chappelle fan was also hit by an egg by a man the protesters did not believe was part of the demonstration, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Star Tribune reported that Chappelle upset protesters during his appointment Wednesday night, but urged attendees at Varsity Theater to continue to support First Avenue.
“It’s an important place for our culture,” he said.
Perry Stein and Amanda Andrade-Rhodes contributed to this report.