Netflix Loses Spot on HRC Corporate Equality Index after Chappelle Controversy

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday February 2, 2022
Originally published on February 2, 2022

Streaming giant Netflix was dropped from the HRC Foundation's latest Corporate Equality Index following Dave Chappelle's controversial jokes (which some deemed transphobic) on his special "The Closer," as well as the ensuing backlash Deadline reported.

In years past, Netflix had enjoyed "a perfect score" on the annual report.

The HRC Foundation said the exclusion was "a result of the company's handling" of the matter.

"The Corporate Equality Index is an annual rating of hundreds of companies," Deadline said.

The HRC Foundation annotated the margins of the 2022 report's Appendix A — "Employer Ratings" — on Page 19, where Netflix would have appeared if the streamer had been included in the latest Equality Index.

"Given the harm experienced by transgender workers at Netflix as a result of the company's handling of the release of The Closer, HRC has suspended Netflix's Corporate Equality Index score and will not be rewarding it with a 'Best Places to Work' distinction in the 2022 CEI," the note explained.

The annotation went on to say, "HRC and Netflix are having productive conversations about steps the company could take to demonstrate it is acting in a manner consistent with the values of workplace equality and inclusion and to improve trust among their employees and the public."

"But a Netflix spokesperson said that they 'respectfully disagree with HRC's decision,'" the article said.

The spokesperson told Deadline that the streamer had "made real strides on inclusion, including for our LGBTQ+ colleagues."

"For example, we offer comprehensive transgender and non-binary-inclusive care in our U.S. health plans as well as adoption, surrogacy and parental leave for same-sex couples."

With regard to the content the company commissions and curates, "we've also worked hard to increase representation on screen," the spokesperson said. "Netflix is the only major entertainment company to have commissioned and published independent research into diversity in our content so that we can better measure our progress."

As previously reported at EDGE, Chappelle took aim at transgender women in the special, saying that the private parts of transgender women were "not quite what it is," and declaring his solidarity with "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, who had sparked online criticism with social media posts about trans women.

Chappelle also joked about the LGBTQ+ community more broadly, saying, "In our country, you can shoot and kill a [n-word], but you better not hurt a gay person's feelings." The remark was a reference to controversy surrounding remarks rapper DaBaby made the previous summer that some decried as homophobic, as well as a 2018 incident in which DaBaby was involved in a shooting at a mall that resulted in the death of one man. DaBaby claimed self-defense in that instance.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos circulated a memo to company managers saying that Chappelle's jokes did not cross "the line on hate," and anticipated that some of the streamer's creatives might demand the special be pulled, "which we are not going to do," Sarandos declared.

By that point, "Dear White People" executive producer Jaclyn Moore, a transgender woman, had announced that she was "done" with Netflix and would not work with the streamer on other projects.

A number of Netflix employees disagreed with Sarandos, and staged a walkout over the special's content and the memo.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.