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Spotify CEO bucks cancel culture, refuses to remove Joe Rogan: 'Canceling voices is a slippery slope'

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Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is not kowtowing to cancel culture.

Spotify's top executive released a statement late Sunday explaining the streaming platform would stand by Joe Rogan, host of "The Joe Rogan Experience," as leftists call for Spotify to boot him from its platform.

What did Ek say?

Writing in an email to all Spotify employees, Ek addressed the newest controversy involving Rogan — his use of the N-word and racially insensitive jokes on podcast episodes that have existed on the internet for years but only became a problem last week — and explained that Spotify will not cancel Rogan.

"I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer," Ek said.

"We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress," he explained.

Regarding episodes of "The Joe Rogan Experience" that were recently purged from the platform, Ek explained that Rogan made the decision to remove the now-deleted episodes, a decision Ek said he supported. Rogan has said in an Instagram video that he chose to remove some old episodes because they were "clunky."

Ek, however, did make one concession to upset employees. He pledged that Spotify would invest $100 million — the same amount of money as Spotify's contract with Rogan to exclusively host his podcast — to promote content from "historically marginalized groups."

If we believe in having an open platform as a core value of the company, then we must also believe in elevating all types of creators, including those from underrepresented communities and a diversity of backgrounds. We’ve been doing a great deal of work in this area already but I think we can do even more. So I am committing to an incremental investment of $100 million for the licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups. This will dramatically increase our efforts in these areas.

"While some might want us to pursue a different path, I believe that more speech on more issues can be highly effective in improving the status quo and enhancing the conversation altogether," Ek explained.

What is the background?

Rogan published an unequivocal apology over the weekend after clips of him using the N-word circulated on social media.

"There's a video that's out that is a compilation of me saying the N-word. It's a video that's made of clips taken out-of-context of me of 12 years of conversations on my podcast, and it's all smushed together," Rogan explained in an Instagram video. "It looks f***ing horrible. Even to me."

"I know that to most people, there is no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, nevermind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that now. I haven’t said it in years," Rogan said. "But for a long time ... when it came up in conversation, instead of saying ‘the N-word,’ I would just say the word. I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing."

After explaining the contexts in which he used the N-word, Rogan said, "I never used it to be racist because I’m not racist."

"But whenever you’re in a situation where you have to say ‘I’m not racist,’ you’ve f***ed up, and I clearly have f***ed up," he added.

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