May 22, 2024
Yuga Labs' Social Lead Resigns Amid Racist Tweet Controversy
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Yuga Labs’ Social Lead Resigns Amid Racist Tweet Controversy

Shpend Salihu, the Social Lead for Yuga Labs, the startup behind the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club and other prominent NFT collections, resigned on Sunday amid a controversy surrounding racist and antisemitic tweets he posted years ago. The tweets resurfaced on social media, leading to Salihu’s decision to step down from his position.

In his statement on Twitter, Salihu acknowledged the past tweets’ resurgence and the distraction they caused to the company’s mission. He expressed remorse for the tweets, emphasizing that they do not reflect his current beliefs or values. Salihu also extended an apology to anyone who felt let down by his past comments.

The Bored Ape Yacht Club is among the most notable NFT projects, featuring 10,000 unique Ethereum profile pictures that serve as access passes to a private club with exclusive benefits and privileges. Since its launch in early 2021, the project has generated almost $3 billion in trading volume, making it a significant player in the NFT space. Yuga Labs, the company behind the project, acquired CryptoPunks and Meebits IP from Larva Labs after raising $450 million in 2022 at a $4 billion valuation.

Salihu’s departure coincided with ApeFest, the annual real-world gathering for Bored Ape Yacht Club members, which took place in Hong Kong. The event was marked by the announcement of a collaboration between Yuga Labs and Magic Eden on an Ethereum NFT marketplace. However, it was also marred by reports of some attendees experiencing eye discomfort, potentially due to overexposure to UV light.

Salihu’s past tweets had drawn criticism from some Bored Ape NFT owners and prominent collectors. Some questioned the company’s hiring practices, calling for more thorough background screenings and vetting of social media presence before official employment. The incident sparked discussions about cancel culture and the responsibilities of companies when hiring key personnel.

Yuga Labs and its co-founders have previously faced allegations of embracing antisemitic and racist imagery in the creation of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. The company has vehemently denied these claims, emphasizing the diverse backgrounds of its co-founders and refuting specific allegations of racist imagery. Artist Ryder Ripps had been one of the most vocal individuals making such accusations, which ultimately led to legal action. Yuga Labs sued Ripps and collaborator Jeremy Cahen over a copycat Bored Ape collection and won the case. In late October, a U.S. district judge ordered the pair to pay Yuga Labs $1.575 million in damages, along with legal fees, and to transfer the smart contract that powers the knockoff collection to Yuga Labs.

Salihu’s resignation underscores the challenges faced by companies in managing their employees’ online presence and navigating the delicate balance between personal history and professional responsibilities in the era of social media. It also highlights the ongoing controversies and legal battles surrounding NFT projects and their creators.

Image: Wallpapers.com

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