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Dave Chappelle Won’t Let School Name Theater After Him Amid Backlash

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Dave Chappelle has revealed that he’s decided against having the theater at his former high school named after him after plans for him to become the venue’s eponym were originally put in place.

The standup comedian made his opinion on the matter public Monday night while he was visiting Washington, D.C. for a dedication ceremony of the venue at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, his alma mater. The Washington Post first reported the story.

While Chappelle reaffirmed that he believed criticisms against him weren’t productive, he also stated that he didn’t want his name to be on the theater if that would distract students.

Instead of the student theater bearing his name, the space will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.

Representatives for Chappelle could not be immediately reached for comment.

The school had initially made plans for a naming ceremony with Chappelle last year, but the dedication was postponed after the comedian became the subject of a wave of controversy from members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community for using language described as transphobic in his 2021 Netflix special “The Closer.”

More specifically, Chappelle also became the subject of criticism from some members of Duke Ellington’s student body in November when he visited the campus. Some students questioned the comedian directly regarding his dismissal of the criticism he’s received from LGBTQ+ individuals.

“I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child,” one student reportedly told Chappelle at the time.

“The Ellington family is my family,” Chappelle affirmed on Monday evening after voicing his decision.

Chappelle remains one of Duke Ellington’s most prolific donors and supporters, having given several millions of dollars to the institution, appeared for commencement speeches and hosted masterclasses for students. He had described the initial decision to name the theater after him as “the most significant honor of my life.”

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