Coca-Cola and State Farm are reassessing their partnerships with Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, amid the company’s sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit.
The Washington Post reports that both Coca-Cola and State Farm were (in the Washington Post’s words) reassessing their partnerships with the esports tournament. A spokesperson for State Farm stated the company was “reevaluating our limited marketing relationship with the Overwatch League,” and that “no advertisements run during the matches this weekend.”
A Coca-Cola spokesperson stated the company was “aware of the allegations surrounding Activision Blizzard,” and was closely monitoring the on-going situation. “We are working with our partners at Blizzard as we take a step back for a moment to revisit future plans and programs.”
The aforementioned are two of the seven companies listed on the Overwatch League website; along with Xfinity, IBM, Cheez-It Grooves, Pringles Wavy, and Teamspeak. None of the above responded to the Washington Post’s request for comment.
T-Mobile was a previous partner of both the Overwatch League and Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty league; but reportedly “vanished from official broadcasts” after the lawsuit became public knowledge. One of the teams, the New York Subliners, covered the T-Mobile logos on their jerseys with duct tape.
The Overwatch League’s talk show Plat Chat no longer featured the T-Mobile coffee mugs. The host of that show declined to answer questions on the matter earlier this week, stating they were still in active talks with T-Mobile.
UPDATE: The Washington Post have updated their article, noting Kellogg will no longer advertise their products (Cheez-It and Pringles) in the Overwatch League. T-Mobile also confirmed they “paused” their sponsorship.
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment, which may have led to one woman who committed suicide on a company trip, and discrimination for women being paid less and promoted less frequently and after longer periods of time.
Activision Blizzard stated that while “there is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” they felt the Californian report “ includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” An internal email from Activision executive Frances Townsend described the allegations as “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”
In response, almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” It also called for official statements “that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.”
Staff led a walkout on July 28th; listing demands including ending mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, adopting policies to improve representation at all levels of the company, publishing pay data to show women are paid and promoted fairly, and hiring a third party to audit the company’s executive and HR staff.
Sources claimed staff would not be punished for the walkout, and had paid time off. Kotick later stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf.”
Along with bringing in a law firm to conduct an immediate review of Activision Blizzard policies and procedures; Kotick stated the company would investigate all the claims, creating safe spaces for Listening Sessions organized by third parties, an immediate evaluation of managers and leaders, compliance resources for diverse hiring, and removing NPCs from World of Warcraft inspired by those named in the allegations.
The staff stated they were dissatisfied with Kotick’s response to the lawsuit; stating it did not address ending forced arbitration, workers involved in the oversight of hiring and promotion policies, greater pay transparency, or employee selection of a third party to audit the company processes and HR.
Further, almost 500 former and current Ubisoft employees announced their support for Activision Blizzard staff in an open letter; calling for new industry-wide rules and processes. Jeff Strain, a former Blizzard Entertainment developer and founder of Undead Labs, recently called for unionization of the video games industry.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff have demanded WilmerHale not be the third party auditing the company. This is due to an alleged conflict of interest, the law firms alleged “history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action,” and Avakian specializing in “protecting the wealthy and powerful.”