Pro esports orgs stand with Activision Blizzard employees, could influence more

Some of the most influential esports organizations and personalities in the world are standing in solidarity with Activision Blizzard employees, emphasizing equality and change in the face of a lawsuit against the powerhouse gaming developer.

Activision Blizzard employees had a walkout at the Irvine, Calif., campus to show discontent with the company’s response to a state-filed lawsuit that alleged sexual harassment and gender inequality with a “frat boy culture.”

Both Overwatch and Call of Duty are developed by the California company, though competitors in the respective leagues are not employees.

The esports community, however, can be highly influential and many are using their platforms to lobby for change. As of 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, nine OWL teams and six CDL teams had tweeted an official statement from team accounts, all of them in support of current or former employees at Activision Blizzard. A lawsuit says the company has fostered a toxic atmosphere for women in the company.

Envy Gaming owner Mike Rufail, whose company is the parent of the Dallas Fuel and Dallas Empire, spoke out against unfair treatment of people in the gaming industry as well.

“No one should ever feel uncomfortable in the place they have to perform their job and it should be the absolute top priority for any business to make sure that their employees never have to face the type of alleged behavior we all are hearing about now,” Rufail said in a tweet.

He followed up in response to a question about cutting ties with the company: “Breaking away ignores the problem and fixes nothing. Addressing the issues head on, repairing a broken environment and working hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again is the best outcome and one that I trust AB leadership is seeking.”

It’s unclear if upcoming esports competitions in both leagues will be disrupted by Wednesday’s walkout. Officials from OWL and CDL didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The CDL is in Arlington this week for its fifth and final regular-season major of the season, and fans are expected at Esports Arena Arlington both Saturday and Sunday.

The extent of the lawsuit’s overlap with the esports arm of the company, which doesn’t have as much personnel as developers for titles such as World of Warcraft, is also unclear. But Jon Spector, the most forward-facing OWL executive, has come out in support of Activision/Blizzard employees.

“I am inspired and awed by the strength, bravery, and vision shown by my co-workers who are putting everything on the line and have rallied so many people to demand a better and safer ABK,” OWL Vice President Jon Spector wrote in a tweet. “These are the leaders whose voices so badly need to be heard.”

Spector sent out several tweets in solidarity with those at the walkout. OWL desk host and face of the league, Soe Gschwind, posted photos of herself,…

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