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Dave Chappelle is "listening" and open to a dialogue in the wake of controversy over his stand-up special The Closer, according to representative for the comedian. The Netflix special has been widely criticized as transphobic and harmful to transgender people, and has prompted an unusual amount of unrest at the streamer since its debut earlier this month.
"Dave stands by his Art. Both sides of the street are talking and Dave is listening," Chappelle's rep told PEOPLE. "At some point, when everyone is open, I'm sure our communities will come together."
On Wednesday, Netflix employees staged a walkout in protest of The Closer, which features numerous mocking remarks about the LGBTQ+ community, and transgender people in particular. The walkout was organized by a trans employee resource group at Netflix, which also released a list of demands calling for the streamer to address transphobic content and invest in trans and non-binary creators.
Mathieu Bitton/Netflix Dave Chappelle in 'The Closer'
"We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that's been caused," a Netflix spokesperson said in response to the protest. "We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content."
In response to the statement from Chappelle's representative, B. Pagels-Minor, a former Netflix employee who was fired for allegedly leaking internal information about The Closer, said they were also open to a dialogue with the comedian.
"If someone from Dave's camp sends over contact info, I will gladly send it to the Netflix employees," Pagels-Minor, who is transgender and had been helping organize the employee walkout before being fired, wrote on Twitter.
— B. (@bpagelsminor) October 21, 2021
Transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston, who helped organize a rally in support of the walkout, told PEOPLE she previously reached out to Chappelle after the premiere of his 2019 special Sticks & Stones, which ignited a similar, albeit less intense, backlash.
"If Dave were truly willing to come to the table, I would sit at it and respectfully have the conversation," Preston said.
Dave Chappelle was not “canceled.” He’s been invited to the table for transformative dialogue but won’t show up. That’s not “cancel culture,” but an avoidance of accountability. He’s no victim. The man is worth $50M. Unlike many trans people his comedy stigmatizes— he’ll live.
— Ashlee Marie Preston (@AshleeMPreston) October 13, 2021
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who previously defended The Closer in two memos to staff, said he "screwed up" in doing so ahead of the walkout this week. In the memos, Sarandos had said that "we don't allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don't believe The Closer crosses that line," adding, "Content on screen doesn't directly translate to real-world harm."
The CEO later told The Hollywood Reporter, "I can tell you I screwed up those communications in two ways. One of them was, I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those emails that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made. And I, instead of acknowledging that first, I went right into some rationales. And so first of all, I'd say those emails lacked humanity, in which I like to and I do generally communicate with our teams."