D.C. school postpones Dave Chappelle theater renaming

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District is postponing plans to rename its theater for comedian Dave Chapelle — a noted alumnus — after students voiced opposition amid the dustup over the comedian’s last Netflix special.

The school said the event scheduled for Nov. 23 will be shifted to April 22, a move interpreted as a chance to hear students out while not bowing to “cancel culture.”

Mr. Chappelle is taking fire for his special, “The Closer,” which some Netflix employees and critics have panned for being anti-transgender.

Defenders of the special say the comedian was challenging people to think about crosscurrents in society and shouldn’t be shut out for doing his job as a joke-teller.

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has acknowledged the controversy but said the comedian did not incite violence.

Mr. Chappelle retained close ties with the esteemed Duke Ellington school in Northwest Washington, which focuses on the arts and has a predominately Black enrollment.

In a statement obtained by NBC News, the school praised Mr. Chappelle as ”an important thought leader” who has raised millions of dollars to address budget gaps and donated personally.

“The Closer — the most-watched comedy special in Netflix‘s history, which has garnered a 96% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes — has sparked a national debate around race, gender, sexuality and ‘cancel culture,’” the school said. “We also believe moving forward with the event, originally scheduled for November 23, 2021, without first addressing questions and concerns from members of the Ellington community, would be a missed opportunity for a teachable moment.”

Last month, some transgender Netflix employees led a “virtual walkout” over the special.

Employees who objected to the special appeared to focus on a part of the show that supports “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling’s assertion that gender is an immutable fact.

In the special, Mr. Chappelle talks about his friendship with transgender comic Daphne Dorman, who killed herself after tangling with activists. She had defended Mr. Chappelle as an artist and said he was not a bully.