NewsMarch 5, 2024 6:57 PM ET23,313 views

Escuela Grind's former tour manager addresses allegations from ex-driver

Escuela Grind 24

Former Escuela Grind tour manager Chris Cotter has responded to allegations made by ex-driver Destiny Hopper, in a statement provided to Lambgoat and other publications by Cotter's lawyer, Daniel W. Katz.

In the letter, Cotter agreed with Hopper on the toxic tour environment saying, "I recognize that the culture within the band Escuela was toxic and unprofessional, contributing to a hostile work environment that affected everyone involved," admitting, "I recognize my part as well." 

Cotter admitted to not clearly understanding Hopper's feelings towards him and mentioned a specific instance in El Paso where he asked for clarification. He recalled Hopper responding at the time with, "I love you platonically," which he says he took as a clear message.

"It's very distressing to me that she perceived my interactions at any point as predatory," he said, "And I take this very seriously. It hurts me to hear that someone I cared about, shared great and wonderful moments with, and actively advocated on behalf of, could be so hurt."

Further in the statement, Cotter addresses the sexualized atmosphere within the tour van and band group chat, admitting his participation without considering others' feelings, and says he regrets not pushing harder to address these concerns. At one point, he asked the band to stop calling him "Creamy Chris" in front of others and writing it on the band's trailer, but was met with laughter from the band. 

In his closing remarks, Cotter distanced himself from the band, wishing "nothing more than to not be associated with them in any way," as he further concluded, "I am responsible for my own actions, but the toxicity of the environment around them is purely their doing."

Update 3/6: A photo of the trailer as referenced in the letter below has been located.

Photo via u/No_Hearing_7742

The letter explained:

I have recently become aware of allegations made against me by Destiny Hopper, known as @nosenachos on Instagram, who worked as a driver for the band Escuela during a tour that I managed.

It deeply pains me to see her experience recounted in such a distressing manner. I want to address these allegations with transparency and sincerity.

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge that I recognized the toxic dynamics within the band Escuela almost immediately. This awareness made it very difficult to recognize Destiny's distress, especially considering the mutual confiding in each other of our frustrations about the way we were both being treated. To me, it felt as if we leaned on each other, mutually accepting the situation as undesirable, but neither of us wanted to disrupt the tour.

I want to provide context regarding Destiny Hopper's public comments regarding our relationship during the tour. After she was removed from the driver's role, she referred to me as an "advocate, friend, and copilot," expressing gratitude for my support even when she didn't ask for it. Given this response, I never thought that anything I did or said, or that any interactions between the two of us, were inappropriate. These are her words, and I have text messages to demonstrate these assertions should anyone wish to see them.

It's very distressing to me that she perceived my interactions at any point as predatory, and I take this very seriously. It hurts me to hear that someone I cared about, shared great and wonderful moments with, and actively advocated on behalf of, could be so hurt. I do always attempt to be mindful of my role as a male in interactions with those of other genders. At one point, just moments prior to her being fired, she advocated for me in a profound way. I was so frustrated and upset with how I was being treated at this point and felt like dissociating, my mental state was starting to become compromised with exhaustion and stress. Destiny recognized that I needed help and texted the band these exact words:

'We're about to head back to the venue from the U-Haul place. There's nothing we can do about the trailer for tonight. Also, Chris had advocated for me at times when I was too emotionally exhausted to speak for myself, so I'm advocating for him right now, he needs a mental break. He's completely fried. He's going to lay down in the bunk until it's time for him to get up, and his presence is absolutely necessary.'

This was ultimately what got her fired, this was the last straw for the band. After this outburst of care and compassion for me, the band let her go with the intention of leaving her to find her own way home, thousands of miles away from Florida. If it wasn't for Bonginator, she would have been completely stranded with no way home and no place to stay. The band even went as far as canceling her flight, so that she couldn't have rescheduled it to get home. I did not approve of any of these actions, but was clearly powerless to stop them.

In addition to the dynamics observed during the tour, direct communication from Destiny herself further underscores her openness to addressing any discomfort or issues within our relationship. A text message she sent to me after she was let go reads, 'If it wasn't working out or something makes you uncomfortable, just say it.' This message not only highlights her proactive approach to resolving conflicts, but also suggests a mutual understanding of the importance of clear and transparent communication. That text was in line with the tenor of our relationship in general; I felt as if we had a very open line of communication, and did have boundaries that were mutually respected. I am disappointed to hear that Destiny felt I did not respect hers.

Regrettably, despite Destiny's explicit invitation for open dialogue, I failed to fully recognize the extent of her discomfort and distress. This oversight on my part is something I deeply regret and acknowledge as a failure to prioritize her well-being more. It is clear that Destiny felt trapped in a situation she found uncomfortable, and rightly so. I deeply regret that I failed to see the extent of her distress. I should have been more attentive to the complex nature of our relationship and the discomfort it caused, rather than just her needs and concerns. I was focused on keeping her from getting thrown out of the van on the side of the road, or left at a hotel without a room. There were many things being said in the van that made not only Destiny but myself uncomfortable.

To be blunt, the language and behavior occurring in the tour van and in the band group chat was lewd, and often sexually charged. All parties, myself and Destiny included, made many crude jokes, shared vulgar sexual memes, and openly discussed sexual topics. The only person to voice discomfort about this was me. In fact, everyone seemed to enjoy the bawdy humor, and participated. From reading Destiny's post, it's pretty clear this may not have been the case, and I want to formally apologize if anything I said fully in jest was perceived in a harassing or inappropriate manner. I own my role here; I participated in low brow humor, willingly, without being fully considerate of anyone else's feelings. The atmosphere on tour seemed permissive to this, and if I misread anyone's feelings, I am truly sorry.

However, I did voice my discomfort to the band with the excessive sexual humor at many points. One instance that stands out is when I asked the band in the green room at Reggie's in Chicago to refrain from making sexual jokes referring to me getting pegged, or using inappropriate nicknames, like "Creamy Chris." in front of others. Unfortunately, I was met with laughter from the band members and felt humiliated in this moment, making it clear that addressing such issues would be met with resistance in the toxic environment that already existed. I regret not pushing harder to address these concerns. These issues began much earlier on, and manifested into the band writing "creamy Chris" on the trailer as you can see in the attached photo. 

It's worth noting that Destiny's preference for cash payment over electronic methods like Venmo or Zelle may have contributed to confusion regarding compensation during the tour. While the band stated they were willing to accommodate her preference, only after my insistence that anyone who did work for them be compensated, she clearly felt that they did not intend to pay her. It appears to me as well, that they did not intend to, and that their promises of mailing her cash at the end of tour may have been false.

I must also address the dynamic between Destiny and myself on one other level. Throughout the tour, I perceived mixed signals regarding her romantic interest in me. I do not blame her for this whatsoever; how I interpret things is fully my own fault. I did not feel as if I had a clear picture regarding her feelings towards me. At one point In El Paso I was so confused that I asked Destiny Hopper if there was anything going on between the two of us and she stated that "I love you platonically," which was a very clear message at the time. It's unfortunate that this occurred so late in our time together, as she was let go just a few days later. All of our other interactions after this moment were definitely platonic. The second she set a clear boundary, I not only respected it, but appreciated the clarity it brought.

As Destiny departed the tour, she sent me numerous texts (of which I am happy to provide copies) thanking me for my role, and addressing me as if I were her friend and ally, essentially against the band. It is with great confusion that I read her statement, calling me predatory, as her words, directly to me, seem quite contradictory to that. I do not wish to reconcile the difference in her words to me and her statement. Her feelings are valid, whatever they are, as is my confusion due to the difference.

In conclusion, it is crucial that we address the problematic nature of the insular issues within the band and the toxic dynamics that were taking place, as well as the way the band's following has reacted to all of this. I truly do not believe that she had any intentions to do anyone any harm or cause any foul when she made that post, I don't know what her intentions were. I want to emphasize that my intention is not to undermine Destiny's credibility or invalidate her experiences. I recognize that the culture within the band Esculea was toxic and unprofessional, contributing to a hostile work environment that affected everyone involved. I recognize my part as well; that I did not use my voice to advocate for myself or anyone else, and that I contributed to this toxic environment by making inappropriate jokes. I failed to address the things that made me us uncomfortable, waited too long to seek clarification from her on the status of our relationship, was too focused on my perception of her needs and concerns, instead of the stress she was under, spoke with her in ways that may have made her feel uncomfortable at times and put her in a position where she felt she had to play along with me in order to get the outcome she needed to stay safe.

I am deeply regretful for all of this, and do not intend to contact Destiny ever again, but would certainly be receptive should she reach out to hold me accountable. Despite the accusations made against me, Esculea will continue to operate, which underscores the insular nature of the community surrounding the band, and the people that help them make it happen.

Clearly, I am no longer associated with Esculea by my own choosing, and wish nothing more than to not be associated with them in any way. I am responsible for my own actions, but the toxicity of the environment around them is purely their doing.

Sincerely, Chris Cotter

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