NBA Trouble in Call of Duty’s Warzone

The tribes and tribulations of an unfiltered live stream

Miami Heat reserve forward Meyers Leonard was fined $50,000 after using an anti-Semitic slur while playing Call of Duty: Warzone.

The NBA levied punishment quickly, and while many feel the punishment is light, Leonard will still face NBA discipline in the matter. He lost his gaming sponsorships and FaZe clan -- the organization Leonard associated himself with -- released a statement.

“We were incredibly disappointed to hear Meyers’ stream today. FaZe does not tolerate hate speech or discriminatory language of any kind. While Meyers is not a member of FaZe, we are cutting ties with him. This community has so much growing to do. Let’s be better together.”

How can you cut ties with someone who is not a member of your organization?

The NBA was able to punish Leonard because he’s a member of the Heat, one of the clubs that make up the league. Without a similar structure, esports will likely struggle to gain mainstream acceptance.

FaZe clan’s tweet distancing itself from Leonard was met with several responses, ranging from calling out user FaZeRug for using racist language in the past to questioning the offensiveness of Leonard’s slur.

Currently, users can brand themselves similarly to FaZe clan members, and there’s nothing stopping people from saying they’re a member. Leonard did himself, tweeting an allegiance to the clan on June 5th, 2019. The tweet received over a thousand retweets and twelve thousand likes, and several FaZe members verified on Twitter replied welcoming Leonard.

This loose association gives FaZe clan deniability, but it’s not very plausible. The clan likely profited off of Leonard’s association with them and promotion through his Twitch stream in brand awareness and recognition, as NBA players are high-profile people.

The world is a toxic place, and esports are no exception to that rule. If organizations like FaZe clan want to continue to grow, it will need to foster an environment that is safe and respectful for those participating and fans of the sport.

With no accountability, things like this will continue to happen. Leonard’s slur made news because of his status as an NBA player. FaZe, and other clans, would likely benefit from cracking down on unauthorized players using their branding, as well as a clearly defined and diverse organizational structure.

Unfortunately, history shows that players will use slurs, especially in competition. Other professional sports leagues have mechanisms in place to deter athletes from using them. Without establishing similar mechanisms, esports fans will be marginalized further -- which would significantly skew the demographics of what could be the most diverse professional sport possible.