Netflix has fired the leader of the transgender group that planned to perform a company-wide walkout on Oct. 20 to protest Dave Chappelle. The walkout itself was not the reason for the employee’s dismissal. Instead, Netflix fired the employee for leaking confidential metrics of the comedian’s latest special to the press — details of which appeared in Bloomberg. Earlier this week, Rebel News reported that transgender employees planned to protest Netflix’s refusal to deplatform comedian Dave Chappelle following outrage over his latest comedy special, “The Closer.” On Oct. 20, the group planned to perform a walkout from the streaming service, which they detailed to tech outlet The Verge.
The planned walkout was set to occur days after the company temporarily suspended one of its software engineers, Terra Field, for crashing a director-level meeting.
According to the Bloomberg report, a number of employees complained about the Chappelle special, “warning executives that a series of jokes about gender-neutral pronouns and the genitalia of transgender people was potentially inflammatory and damaging.”
The comedian’s popularity comes at a cost. Netflix spent $24.1 million on the “The Closer,” slightly more than the $23.6 million it paid for Chappelle’s 2019 special, “Sticks & Stones.” By comparison, the streaming service spent $3.9 million for “Inside,” Bo Burnham’s recent hour-and-a-half special. The nine-episode “Squid Game,” which delivered the best debut in Netflix history, cost $21.4 million.
By Netflix’s own measurement, “Sticks & Stones” had an “impact value” of $19.4 million, meaning it cost more than the value it generated, according to internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg. The company also evaluates its programs by “efficiency,” which balances a show’s reach with its price-tag. On that scale, Chappelle’s special scored 0.8 — less than the break-even score of 1. By comparison, Burnham’s “Inside” scored 2.8.
Netflix shares lots of company data, including salaries and quarterly results, with employees as part of its culture of freedom and responsibility. It does so on the condition that those employees don’t share financial results or the performance of individual titles with the public. But the Chappelle special has prompted leaks unprecedented in the company’s history.
The Verge reported on Friday that the terminated employee, who identified as “Black and currently pregnant,” refused to be named for “fear of online harassment.” In addition to allegedly leaking details of the special’s metrics to the press, the employee encouraged other trans Netflix employees to walk out, but the protest was not given as a reason for termination.
“All these white people are going around talking to the press and speaking publicly on Twitter and the only person who gets fired is the Black person who was quiet the entire time,” a former Netflix employee told the outlet. “That’s absurd, and just further shows that Black trans people are the ones being targeted in this conversation.”
Speaking to the outlet, a Netflix spokesperson confirmed the employee’s firing.
“We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company,” they said. “We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company,” Netflix said.