Hours before Chappelle was slated to perform, First Avenue released a statement addressing the backlash it had received for booking the comic, who came under fire for making transphobic remarks last year in his Netflix comedy special, “The Closer.” Chappelle’s show was relocated Wednesday to the nearby Varsity Theater, which also is hosting the comedian on Thursday and Friday.
“To staff, artists, and our community, we hear you and we are sorry,” read a statement from First Avenue, a storied concert venue that has been headlined by the likes of Joe Cocker, Ike and Tina Turner, U2, Run-DMC and, most famously, Prince.
“We know we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we let you down. We are not just a black box with people in it, and we understand that First Ave is not just a room, but meaningful beyond our walls.”
After adding Chappelle to its talent lineup earlier this week, First Avenue was accused on social media of not caring about the LGBTQ+ community, putting its “queer staff and patrons at risk.”
One person who works for Reclaim — a clothing brand that provides mental health resources for LGBTQ+ youth and designed Pride T-shirts for First Avenue — vowed to urge their supervisor to cut ties with the venue “because they’ve decided to platform and profit from anti-trans bigotry.”
Another person screenshotted a message from the First Avenue website stating that “racist, sexist ableist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic or other biased language, including intentional misgendering” is not tolerated at the venue.
“You used to be one of the only venues I felt safe in TC,” tweeted @wprmedia. “Now, you’re just another place I can’t take my fellow LGBTQIAs. You suck.”
“Prince would be ashamed,” tweeted @jagheadroom.
In response to the latest wave of criticism, First Avenue said it has endeavoured to make itself “one of the safest spaces in the country” and would “continue with that mission.”
“We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honouring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have,” the venue’s statement read.
“We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback. If you are a ticket holder, look for an email with information on your ticket(s) transferring to the show at Varsity Theater.”
A representative for Chappelle did not immediately respond Thursday to the L.A. Times’ request for comment.
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