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EXCLUSIVE: As Coinbase’s Apology Falls Flat With Pepe Coin Community, Spottie WiFi Says Crypto Exchange Should ‘Tell The True History Of Pepe’

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Cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase Global COIN faced backlash Wednesday for an email it sent about meme coins, specifically PEPE Coin PEPE/USD, one of the fastest-rising coins to reach $1 billion in value. The email highlighted the debate over the Pepe the Frog meme behind the coin, but the coin’s supporters say Coinbase failed to balance its commentary on Pepe the Frog’s origins. 

A roundabout apology from Coinbase Thursday might not be enough for the loyal Pepe community.

What Happened: Coinbase linked Pepe Coin to Pepe the Frog, a meme that was declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, in an email to users.

Calling Pepe the “memecoin of the moment,” Coinbase offered this description: 

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“The token is based on the Pepe the Frog meme, which first surfaced on the internet nearly 20 years ago as a comic-strip character. Over time it has been co-opted as a hate symbol by alt-right groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League,” Coinbase wrote.

The commentary by Coinbase upset many holders of Pepe Coin and the cryptocurrency community, as Pepe the Frog and the original meme are seen as having different meanings, and this was not mentioned by the cryptocurrency exchange. 

Many crypto holders called for users to delete their Coinbase accounts and make the switch to Gemini, a platform that recently added Pepe Coin and has supported the coin. The term #deletecoinbase was trending on Wednesday night after the events.

The criticism of Coinbase by Pepe supporters also prompted digital artist Beeple to highlight the battle between Pepe and Coinbase in his daily digital image for Thursday. 

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Related Link: Where Can I Buy PEPE 

Coinbase’s Apology: As calls for an apology and a listing of Pepe Coin on Coinbase have grown, the company has issued no new email or official statement on the situation. Instead, the company’s chief legal officer took to Twitter Thursday to share an update.

“We screwed up and we are sorry. Yesterday we shared an overview of the $pepe meme coin to provide a fact-based picture of a trending topic. This did not provide the whole picture of the history of the meme and we apologize to the community,” Paul Grewal said.

While many were happy to see an apology from the Coinbase exec, the community was quick to point out the Twitter accounts of Coinbase itself and CEO Brian Armstrong have been silent on the issue. 

For some who have deleted their Coinbase account, the move could be too little, too late. 

Spottie WiFi, known best as the CryptoPunk rapper, has been one of the key Pepe Coin community members and has hosted dozens of Twitter Spaces on the topic. Spottie WiFi is a holder of Pepe Coin. 

“I think the apology and the correction should come from Coinbase, not an individual Coinbase employee’s personal Twitter account,” Spottie WiFi told Benzinga.

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“Coinbase should send a tweet and an email blast, and they should tell the true history of Pepe and how hard Matt Furie has fought to reclaim Pepe’s image as a symbol of love and peace.”

Pepe The Frog’s History: First seen in the comic “Boy’s Club” in 2005, Pepe the Frog was created by artist Matt Furie.

As Pepe Coin has grown in popularity, community members have explored the history of the meme and the 2020 documentary film “Feels Good Man,” which chronicles the story of Furie and his fight to get his character back.

“[The film] chronicles the surreal story of Pepe the Frog’s journey from laid-back cartoon character to registered hate symbol,” the movie tagline says.

Pepe the Frog was created to highlight the laid-back lifestyles of male college graduates seeking to find their place in the real world. The character found his way into memes and anonymous message boards, quickly becoming one of the most famous memes of all time.

“Boy’s Club is about that post-college zone where you live with a bunch of roommates and don’t really leave the house,” Furie told The Huffington Post in an interview. “It’s playful, absurd, a little surreal.”

Furie said the rise of the character surprised him, but clarified that Pepe was never intended to be a hate symbol.

“There is no hidden agenda. There is no code with Pepe, Whatever he is, he is, for better or worse.”

Eventually, Pepe the Frog was turned into memes with racist connotations and linked to several alt-right groups.

“’Feels Good Man’ is the story of how artist Matt Furie, creator of a trippy, once-benign comic character named Pepe the Frog, fought an uphill battle to reclaim his iconic creation from those who turned it into a symbol of hate,” a PBS description of the documentary says. 

Spottie WiFi told Benzinga: “Pepe artwork is overwhelmingly used to spread joy, not hate, and both Coinbase and the ADL can do a lot more to educate their audiences on this fact.”

The ADL website says that Pepe the Frog “did not originally have racist or antisemitic connotations,” but nevertheless labels the character as a hate symbol.

“However, because so many Pepe the Frog memes are not bigoted in nature, it is important to examine use of the meme only in context. The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist.”

The ADL teamed up with Furie on a #SavePepe campaign to get his character back. Even with that collaborative effort, Pepe is still listed as a hate symbol by the ADL.

Watch Benzinga’s previous interview with Spottie WiFi talking his new album and collaboration with Snoop Dogg here. 

Photo via Shutterstock. 

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