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On June 20, Philip Rusnack, an NFT expert and a YouTube investigator, released a new video where he alleges that Yuga Labs’ Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection has racist connotations with its use of language, symbols, and memes.
According to the YouTuber, the NFT images were a caricature of Black and Asian people while also saying that BAYC is “one massive alt-right inside joke”.
Rusnack continued that the symbols used by Yuga Labs and Bored Apes could be compared to those used by the Nazis, saying there is a point at which the similarities should no longer be viewed as coincidences.
Previously, comparisons have been raised between the BAYC logo and the Nazi Totenkopf symbol. He concluded the video by urging Ape holders to burn their NFTs. In his words:
“I want every celebrity actor, athlete, and influencer to burn their f*cking ape. I want to make such a f*cking shit storm that everyone from Steph Curry to Post Malone to Jimmy Fallon is forced to act.”
Meanwhile, this is not the first time Yuga Labs would be facing racial issues with its NFTs. Ryder Ripps first drew attention to this early this year via a compilation he made on the domain gordongoner.com.
Yuga Labs Responds
Yuga Labs, however, tacitly responded to these claims saying the BAYC logo had a ape in it because they want to “convey just how bored these apes are – they‘re ‘bored to death.'”
A little a bit about us to start off the new year and what's coming. 🧵
1. What's the inspiration behind the name Yuga Labs?
We're nerds, and Yuga is the name of a villain in Zelda whose ability is that he can turn himself and others into 2D art. Made sense for an NFT company.
— Yuga Labs (@yugalabs) January 3, 2022
The team also said people used the term “Apes” to refer to themselves and not others.
Expert Opinion and the Issue of Inclusion
During an interview with Mark Pitcavage earlier this year, the senior researcher at the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism opined to Input that there was no link between the BAYC logo and the Totenkopf.
The researcher, however, supports the resemblance between traits and attributes presented in some of the NFTs, citing the ‘hip hop’ train with a gold chain and the ‘sushi chef headband.’According to Pitcavage, these representations can extrapolate to the Black culture and Japanese folk.
According to Jeff Nelson, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Blavity, there is a need for the crypto/Metaverse industry to pay attention to issues of diversity especially as the space is being built for people of different racial backgrounds.
In his words:
“When you don’t have people at the table who have historically suffered harms or abuses, or who have to live with certain things in the back of their mind, then you don’t build platforms in a way that protects those people … If we make the same mistakes that we did with social networking and web 2.0 … then we’ll just bring that problem into this new space.”