“We cannot be silent in the face of racism and injustice in our country,” the Los Angeles Valiant wrote in a statement on Twitter. “It is irresponsible not to speak up while innocent people face insufferable discrimination each day.”
The Valiant, run by Immortals Gaming Club, was the first Overwatch League (OWL) team to publicly condemn Floyd’s death. The franchise then replied to its statement with a link to the memorial fund for Floyd and his family.
Max Bass, the marketing director for the Immortals who led the internal effort to publish the Valiant’s statement, said they didn’t consider whether other organizations had already said something about Floyd’s death.
“For me, it wasn’t really about what other sports leagues were doing,” Bass told The Post. “It’s something we as people were talking about … that is where this came from.”
Ari Segal, the chief executive for Immortals, told The Post the OWL does sometimes provide teams instructions regarding whether to comment on certain issues. He was not aware of “any note or email” from the OWL regarding Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests against police brutality.
Segal said he’s comfortable that his team’s comments regarding equality and inclusiveness may not be accepted “all the time by everyone." That’s why this is an issue, Segal added.
“If it was easy to do, if everyone was doing it, if the Overwatch League was providing copy for everyone to redistribute, I don’t think you’d be calling us right now," he said over the phone.
Optic Gaming, Valiant’s partner team in the Call of Duty League, published similar remarks on Wednesday: “George Floyd should be alive today,” they wrote.
The Florida Mayhem and the Washington Justice, two other OWL teams, have both released their own statements regarding Floyd’s death.
“George Floyd was an innocent man,” the statement by the Florida Mayhem read. “We believe it would be wrong to remain silent during such a critical time.”
“When influencers or companies start talking about things, people often listen more closely,” wrote one user on Reddit reacting to the Valiant’s statement. “So while many campaigns and tweets are, of course, PR, they are also helpful in getting people to notice.”
The Overwatch League was notably quiet last fall when Activision Blizzard banned a player on the esports circuit of its virtual card game, “Hearthstone,” for rallying support for Hong Kong protesters during a competitive live stream. Activision Blizzard also owns and operates the OWL.
Fans of “Overwatch” enlisted the game’s hero Mei, a weather-altering climatologist, as a symbol for the Hong Kong resistance. Yet, the Dallas Morning News reported the league asked a former assistant coach for the Dallas Fuel to delete a tweet critical of the gaming company’s actions. League franchises have never publicly commented on the protests in Hong Kong.
In the larger world of gaming, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins tweeted he’s “absolutely disgusted" after watching the viral video of the altercation with Minneapolis police. Ali “Myth” Kabbani, a Twitch streamer partnered with TSM, simply wrote “Its unacceptable.”