Alright guys, I guess I was wrong thinking that an esports team wouldn’t sign a kid with a single digit age. Because it turns out that’s (sort of) what happened. According to a report posted on Kotaku yesterday afternoon, Team 33 signed 8 year old Fortnite player Joseph Deen.
If you’re not familiar with Team 33, that’s okay, they’re relatively new. Although, if you keep track of music stars and influencers, you’ll probably know all about them, since their ranks include artists like Drake, Lil Nas X, and DMX. The org also apparently has players for everything from FIFA 21 to World of Warcraft. It shouldn’t be surprising that Fortnite is included in that.
It might be a little more surprising to discover that they’ve issued a $33,000 signing bonus and payed for a $5,000 gaming rig for the new (8 year-old) member. The deal has raised some eyebrows as well as questions about what this means in terms of child labor laws. Interestingly, the team’s founder Tyler Gallagher says the deal is more of a promise that the team is committed to Deen’s future, when he is of an appropriate age to be on the team. He states that there are “no labor laws, because [Deen] doesn’t have to work. He’s just gaming.” He goes on to state that the kid wakes up and games, comes home from school and games, an that’s just what he does. He’s not attending events or going to tournaments. Apparently he’s not even required to log in for practice with other team members.
Instead of doing what would normally be expected from a contracted team member, it seems that Deen’s mother has worked out a deal where the team helps the kid build a YouTube presence, trains him in games, and enters him in friendly tournaments. They’ll also create and sell merchandise based on him — which they’ll retain the rights to if Deen (or more likely his mother) ever decides to break the contract.
So, for now, the whole thing is a monetary promise to help the kid build an audience and train him until he turns 13, at which point the team gets to decide whether or not they want to bring him on before anyone else. Apparently, the contract also has it built in that the child’s mother can break the contract should she feel the gaming is cutting into more important things, such as school work.
It’s a really interesting situation, because while child labor laws exist, kids of a young age obviously can work — otherwise we wouldn’t have any children in movies or television. That said, there are a lot of rules around how kids are allowed to work. It’s also worth noting that esports is still a really new space so laws haven’t really been put into place specifically for that industry. As more, younger kids seem to be entering the space, we’ll probably begin to see something happening on that front.