Esports Insider’s stance on recent industry abuse and misconduct allegations

It’s hard to know where to begin writing this, nor what good it will really do, but I didn’t want to leave this unaddressed by Esports Insider.

As we know, the #MeToo movement in our industry is unfolding, and the breadth and depth of it is alarming. Worse still is that as I write this I strongly expect for there to be further Twitlongers and stories emerging from yet more victims.

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Of course, esports is not an outlier; any industry that is exceedingly male-dominated undoubtedly and, it seems, sadly inevitably has problems with sexism, misogyny, and the resulting problems that emerge in those environments. Having previously worked in gambling for instance where such problems are for sure rife, naively I thought esports would be better. How wrong I was.

Words are ineffectual, or rather my grasp of them, to do justice to describing everything going on right now. 

Myself, ESI editor Adam Fitch, and other members of the team, as well as trusted industry colleagues, have discussed how we should cover these stories at length, and indeed with so many stories now out there, and moreover their variety, with each needing full context and attention we have deemed it most appropriate, for now at least, not to address any of them specifically.

On this too, and with a nod to Richard Lewis’ recent piece for Dexerto, there is a valid concern regarding those stories which are less than credible, which whilst I want to make crystal clear I have no doubt are very few and very far between, may well exist. Paying lip service to them, and giving them a further platform, is offering a gesture of credibility, and far more importantly it’s potentially detrimental to those whose stories very much do need to be heard, and which are in equal measure horrifying, and true. The fear is that they get drowned out as is the nature of social media, and that they are minimised or rather the risk of this happening is increased, and as Richard put it “it actually harms victims if non-credible or false allegations are given oxygen because they are used to discredit the people making them as “just another liar.”

All of this said, it is of course not ESI’s place to be judge, jury and executioner, and we don’t want to help swing the axe without a full and thorough assessment and investigation of each individual allegation. We also want to make very clear where we stand on this. One thing is clear; this industry needs to change, and more importantly, this change needs to be sweeping, and widespread, from top to bottom.

I’ve read a great many tweets, posts and articles which have made me think, but this one in particular from Lauren Glaba Flanagan is necessary reading for all men working in the space. Probably all men generally at that.

More required reading is a reflective piece by Frankie Ward, well-known host, presenter and streamer, detailing somewhat her experiences as a woman working in esports, and a highly visible role at that.

If nothing else, the four words “misogyny is a pyramid” are ones worth repeating and reminding ourselves of, over and over.

It’s our everyday interactions and behaviours which form a part of how it is, and becomes, both systemic and acceptable, and in turn how the most severe allegations of sexual assault are able to continue to occur, at a sickening frequency. 

Due to its relative infancy as an industry, its fragmented nature, and its lack of a clear governing body or bodies, there is a lack of accountability. Esports too often doesn’t have the structures in place for proper checks and balances, and investigations when needed, nor the clear channels for them for victims.

All this, mixed with the fact that esports is a crossover of sport and entertainment, and is a huge passion for a great many, complicates things further. For many, especially those new to the space in whatever capacity, having the chance to work and be paid to be involved with and do what they love, it’s understandable to throw caution to the wind, and moreover be less inclined to ‘rock the boat’ for fear of risking their position. Unfortunately, there are those who are well aware that this is the state of play, and won’t hesitate to take advantage and abuse their positions of power. 

Though to that point, esports’ lack of full development and structure as an industry should not be an excuse, nor should we use it as something of a crutch whilst we follow the mantra of ‘things will get better’ as it grows and develops. It’s not good enough. We need to actively work together to make things better and make the changes needed to ensure a far safer and more welcoming environment for women throughout the ecosystem, from players and coaches, to journalists and the wider business side of things.

On every level too. That is up to each and every one of us as individuals, but especially for men in positions of influence and power at esports teams, tournament organisers and any other stakeholders, to actively (and religiously) listen to women. How this change actually takes place at a wider level is something industry leaders need to think about and discuss long and hard, but each respective company and organisation can begin to have the difficult conversations and begin to implement necessary changes right away.

For the men working in this space it’s the way we treat and talk to, or about, the women who are our colleagues, employees, bosses, or whatever else, and indeed that’s whether or not they’re ‘in the room’. In short, any tolerance of sexism and misogyny is a slippery slope and one which I imagine I’ve been guilty of and indeed strive to be better at. Indeed I imagine almost all men, if they’re honest, have been guilty of this too to some extent, whether it’s simply not calling out someone else’s bullshit, or worse. 

Worse still, if you’re someone whose first thought and reaction isn’t from a place of empathy when each new allegation comes to light, but rather to try to find holes in the story, or ways to dismiss it and the person behind it, then take a minute and think on why that might be.  Recognise that you and that mindset are a big part of the wider problem, and work on it. 

To conclude we can and we should do better. This isn’t a change which starts at the top or the bottom.  It’s not one where we can pass the buck and hope someone else comes along gets started with it, and then we’ll get involved. Someone has come along- it’s one which we all need to commit to, and it begins with each of us personally. 

If you would like to reach out to discuss this or anything mentioned here with myself or any member of the Esports Insider team please email us at [email protected], or you can reach me directly at [email protected].