Chappelle made the announcement during a dedication ceremony of the venue at his alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
Dave Chappelle has decided not to lend his name to the student theater at his alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The unexpected announcement came Monday during the theater's dedication ceremony, where Chappelle declined the honor amid controversy over his Netflix special last year, which many called transphobic. The special also earned the comedian criticism from some of Ellington's student.
Per The Washington Post, Chappelle told the audience that while he thought the backlash against him lacked nuance and wasn’t about his work, he didn’t want a theater bearing his name to distract from students focusing on the meaning of their art.
Chappelle decided on Friday not to have his name on the school venue, but still attended the D.C.-area ceremony Monday, because, as he said during Monday's event, "The Ellington family is my family."
He did note, however, that the criticism he received "sincerely" hurt him.
At the time of the controversy, the school's principal, Sandi Logan, said she had formal and informal meetings with students to discuss Chappelle’s comments, which included a month of weekly meetings with an advisory committee of student leaders made up of a swath of students, including representatives from the school’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance.
The theater naming, which was originally supposed to take place last year, was postponed following the Netflix special, so that students could address their concerns over the funnyman's controversial comments.
"Moving forward with the event … without first addressing questions and concerns from members of the Ellington Community would be a missed opportunity for a teachable moment," the school wrote in a statement at the time.
Chappelle came under fire following the release of his Netflix special, The Closer. In that special, Chappelle said that "gender is a fact," adding, "Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth." Chappelle also identified himself as "Team TERF," which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, an ideology that excludes trans women as women.
The special sparked outrage, protests and even employee walkouts at the streaming giant. Chappelle would ultimately say he's willing to meet with the trans community, but only under certain conditions.
For more on how Chappelle addressed the trans community following his Netflix special, check out the video below.