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Group of Netflix employees calls for walkout amid tensions over Dave Chappelle’s show


The tension builds within Netflix Inc.

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about a special Dave Chappelle stand-up that some employees called offensive to the transgender community, the latest clash between the streaming giant’s radical franchise culture and its embrace of creative freedom.

A group of transgender employees at Netflix are encouraging staff to hold a walkout next Wednesday to protest the recent defense by co-CEO and director of content, Ted Sarandos, of Mr. Chappelle’s special. The walkout plans had already been reported by the Verge and confirmed by Netflix.

In “The Closer,” which was released last week and is currently one of the most-watched shows on the service in the United States, Mr. Chappelle said that “the genre is a fact” and said it is ‘identified as a “TERF”, an acronym that stands for “radical feminist trans-exclusionist”. Mr Chappelle said he was not a favorite of the trans community, then added: “Someone said to me, ‘They’re after you, Dave’ and I said, ‘One them or more they? “

A day after the special was released, Terra Field, a Netflix software engineer who is transgender, criticized the show on Twitter, saying Mr. Chappelle was attacking “the trans community and the very validity of transiting.” The tweets went viral and caused a backlash within the streaming giant during the special. Groups including LGBTQ rights group GLAAD have spoken out against the show and the National Black Justice Coalition has called on Netflix to remove the special from its platform.

On Monday, Mr Sarandos posted a company-wide email defending the special and saying the service would not be removing it. Mr Sarandos said the company is working hard to support creative freedom, which means “there will always be content on Netflix that some people think is harmful.” He also said he didn’t think the special incited hatred or violence. Mr. Chappelle has a long-standing relationship with Netflix, having done several promotions for the streaming service. At the end of the credits of “The Closer”, there is a photo of MM. Chappelle and Sarandos laughing together.

Responding to critics at an event in Hollywood last week, Mr. Chappelle said, “If that’s what the cancellation looks like, I love it.”

Netflix said Ms Field was not punished for her tweets, but she and two other employees got into the hot water at Netflix when they attended an online Netflix executive meeting last week without authorization.

The trio were suspended but quickly reinstated, according to Netflix. Ms Field said Netflix told her there did not appear to be any bad intention on her part and that she was unaware the meeting was only for senior company executives, according to a tweet from Ms Field. Netflix has confirmed this account.

Netflix contrasts with traditional studios and networks, where employees rarely question content decisions – let alone turn to social media to negatively criticize those choices. At Netflix, radical openness and transparency are encouraged in corporate hallways and meetings.

Among programmers, Netflix has stood out when it comes to streaming shows featuring transgender artists, including “Sense8”, “Orange Is the New Black”, “Sex Education” and “Control Z”. He also has a development agreement with transgender producer Janet Mock.

This isn’t the first time that a Chappelle special has caused anger inside Netflix. His previous stand-up special, “Sticks and Stones,” which also included comments on the LGBTQ community, was found by some within the company to be offensive, according to people familiar with the matter.

Last year, a sex-filled movie titled “365 Days” which was popular on the platform made some members of the company uncomfortable, as did the movie “Cuties,” which was accused of sexually exploiting young girls, people said.

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

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