Op Ed: Recent xQc Punishments Show Why the Overwatch League Needs a Players’ Union Sooner Rather Than Later

Felix xQc Lengyel

Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

This Friday afternoon, the Overwatch League issued heavy-handed punishments to four members of the league: Taimou, Silkthread, TaiRong, and xQc. Taimou was fined $1,000 for using anti-gay slurs on his stream, SIlkthread was fined $1,000 for account sharing, TaiRong was given a warning for posting an offensive meme, and xQc was fined $4,000 and suspended for four matches for using Twitch emotes in a “racially disparaging manner” on stream as well as using “disparaging language against Overwatch League casters and fellow players”.


The first three cases are clear cut and indefensible, as there’s clear evidence in all of them that justifies the punishment. However, xQc’s case is less so; though it’s a fact that he called out the Overwatch League casting on Twitter and went after Los Angeles Valiant main tank Fate with disparaging comments. The case against him for his behavior is very questionable. On top of this, there are examples of how other members of the league have behaved similarly and escaped punishment.


The claim against xQc is that he used a negative emote when Overwatch League staff member Malik Forté was on-screen during an OWL stream and that it was racially motivated. However, xQc was using the emote before and after Malik was visible. According to xQc on his personal Discord server, he attempted to set up a meeting to explain his side of things, but the punishment was confirmed and given prior to the meeting occurring. Though there’s no proof of this available, xQc said on his stream Friday that he was not allowed to show the email he received, so that is not his fault.


In this same Friday stream, xQc also claimed that the Overwatch League told the Dallas Fuel to not play him during Week 3 of Stage 2, despite the fact that he was not officially punished at this point in time. Though he was eventually brought into Dallas’ lineup during their match with the San Francisco Shock, the notion that the league requested xQc to be benched without official authority behind the demand is troubling and, quite frankly, very unprofessional. Again, no proof of this exists, but it’s logical to take xQc’s word as truth considering he or the Fuel can’t reveal documents from the Overwatch League and lying would only risk him being punished further.


Of course, it is very well possible that xQc was in fact lying about his claims, but even so, the league is still incredibly inconsistent. The end of the statement from the OWL on Friday reads, “It is unacceptable for members of the Overwatch League to use or distribute hateful, racist, or discriminatory speech or memes. It is important for all members to be aware of the impact their speech may have on others.” However, a fair amount of the Overwatch League’s players are often aggressive or mean and most of them go unpunished. Jake from the Houston Outlaws is a prime example of this, often acting toxic and even occasionally throwing games and t-bagging players during both ranked play and OWL matches. Why does xQc (Taimou, as well) get the smack down, but he does not? There’s even a case to be made against an OWL caster – Reinforce has described Reinhardt players as “either cowards or retards” in Discord, but was never officially given a punishment of his own. You can say that he didn’t mean it in a derogatory way, but then that argument can be used in defense of xQc’s use of the word when describing Fate’s play. Where is the line drawn?


Of course, there’s a sea of context with everything, and context matters. Regardless, the lack of any clear and defined rule structure in the Overwatch League means that people are constantly traversing a minefield in which nobody is sure of what is okay and what isn’t, and this is only exacerbated by the aforementioned examples where some people are punished and others are not. I have nothing against the people that I mentioned, but I do think the inconsistencies with the Overwatch League’s punishment policies are a big problem.


What the Overwatch League’s players truly need is a union. Though they stand as opponents during matches, they are all comrades when it comes to making the league a better place to play. If we can learn anything from xQc’s recent issues, it’s that players need an efficient platform from which they can use to defend themselves. If the players unionize, they can demand a more detailed and defined rule structure from the Overwatch League, and this will in turn make it much easier for everyone in the league to understand what is and isn’t acceptable.


Every other professional sporting community in the world has a player-centric union that protects them from unfair treatment and discrimination. Regardless of whether or not you think xQc is guilty of everything he was punished for here, it should be clear to everyone why the Overwatch League needs one too.

Brendan is a young journalist who loves Overwatch with a burning passion. When he’s not playing Reinhardt in-game, he’s watching the Overwatch League with excitement. Follow him on Twitter.
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