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Ring in the new year with tone-deaf comedy at Climate Pledge Arena

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Image courtesy of CPA
Image courtesy of CPA

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, a certain "canceled" comedian has been given a large platform to spout vitriolic nonsense and unfunny jokes: Dave Chapelle is set to perform for New Year's Eve at Climate Pledge Arena.

For those not tuned in to the culture wars of late, Netflix released a comedy special by Chapelle, The Closer, on October 5, which caused uproar for its hateful rhetoric against the Trans community. An employee walkout was organized in mid-October, joined in protest by members of the public. A group of Netflix employees allege they were fired for speaking up against airing the special (Netflix denies these allegations).

Netflix's co-CEO Ted Sarandos claims he screwed up in dealing with his employees' worries about the special, but was seen smiling and taking photos with Chapelle at his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in late October.

Does this surprise anyone? Probably not. Netflix is an over-$200 billion company. Its co-CEO likely does not care about the dissent of employees or viewers all that much. Chapelle's specials bring in lots of viewers and revenue; The Closer was his sixth in a long-standing deal with Netflix. His "cancelation" brought nothing but attention to himself and Netflix as a streaming service, good or bad. It seems that meaningful change is a tough ask from monopolistic companies that exist for profit and not much else.

Chapelle's slated performance here has caused Seattle Pride to demand an apology from the comedian before he is allowed to bring his act to Climate Pledge Arena. Part of the organization's statement reads: "Seattle Pride is concerned that Mr. Chappelle's purposeful homophobic and transphobic remarks are being given a platform at Seattle's new Climate Pledge Arena. The Arena claims to be '... the most progressive, responsible, and sustainable arena in the world'; however, we do not see how this can be the case when [it is] hosting an individual who refuses to acknowledge — and now is further perpetuating — his harmful statements."

Seattle Pride also called on the arena to "postpone Mr. Chappelle's performance until he issues a sincere apology to the transgender community and acknowledges the harm he causes when he normalizes anti-transgender beliefs and denies the complexities and nuances of gender."

The organization has also reached out to Live Nation, Seattle Center, Amazon, and Climate Pledge Arena partners, Alaska Airlines, and Symetra, asking for support for the postponement.

Chapelle's show has not been postponed, though, and it is sold out. Tickets are reselling for over $100.

Photo courtesy of CPA  

The entire situation stands as a testament to the ridiculousness of the smoke-and-mirrors "activism" of Amazon in naming a billion-dollar arena after a pledge to reach net-zero emissions while simultaneously ignoring workers' rights, destabilizing local businesses, and generating an estimated 465 million pounds of plastic waste in 2019 alone.

Jeff Bezos' net worth is greater than $200 billion while his delivery drivers and warehouse employees scrape by, and we are supposed to believe that an arena named by his company is going to take a stand on issues faced by marginalized communities? No amount of approval or acknowledgement by large corporations is enough to justify the inequities driven by profit-seeking, monopolistic business models.

Some are worried that Climate Pledge Arena is gladly giving a platform to a transphobic comedian that refuses to engage with dissenting opinions over his hateful remarks. More concerning is the discussion of celebrity and corporate stances on social issues can serve as a smokescreen to conceal the inherent evils of a company encouraging rampant consumerism at the expense of employee livelihoods — while pledging to help slow climate change — while the founder's net worth is greater than the GDP of more than 140 countries.

The "most progressive, responsible, and sustainable arena in the world" was named by a large driver of inequality and environmental degradation. Climate Pledge Arena cannot claim this title, with or without allowing Dave Chapelle to perform B-grade, offensive comedy on its stage.