As scandals and accusations rip through Activision Blizzard, CEO Bobby Kotick has managed to keep his head above water with a heavy helping of "plausible denial." While many employees at his company faced consequences, Kotick was not personally accused of any wrongdoing, nor was it insinuated that he took a direct hand in protecting the perpetrators of harassment that appears to have been rampant at his company.
That may all be changing following an investigative report by The Wall Street Journal's Ben Fritz, Kirsten Grind, and Sarah E. Needleman. While the article is behind a paywall, Fritz tweeted out several excerpts that paint a disturbing picture of Kotick's efforts to keep both his and others' poor -- and, in many cases, criminal -- behavior hidden for over a decade.
That thread is long and contains one disturbing account after another, as well as Kotick's efforts to minimize the damage, but maybe -- if you were being very charitable -- you could pass some of it off as "business as usual" at a game company over the past decade-plus. "They didn't know any better," or "They thought they could get away with it" are common excuses used when tales of sexual harassment from, say, 2016, bubble up to the surface. That's not correct, but you could at least see how some people might think that way in the "old days" of five years ago.
However, in the midst of the scandals, Blizzard appointed two people to "co-lead" the company following the departure of former President J. Allen Brack in August: Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal. A month later, Fritz alleges, Oneal "sent an email to a member of Activision's legal team in which she professed a lack of faith in Activision's leadership to turn the culture around, saying 'it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.'" Oneal wrote in the email that she was paid less than Ybarra, and that she wanted to discuss her resignation, saying that she had been "tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against." Oneal did, in fact, announce her resignation earlier this month, saying in her public statement that she is not "without hope for Blizzard."
In other words, even after everything that had gone down over the past few months, which included talk of pay disparity between male and female employees at Activision Blizzard, Oneal was in fact paid less than her supposed equal. Her call for further action and discipline regarding harassment at the company apparently went unheeded enough for her to call it quits. If the (co-)head of Blizzard doesn't feel like she can enact this kind of change at the top levels of Activision Blizzard, then no one can.
At this point, it's all but impossible to give Bobby Kotick and Activision Blizzard leadership any benefit of the doubt. If the accusations and allegations in Fritz's article are true, then he needs to resign as CEO, and possibly face criminal repercussions as well.
UPDATE: It looks like the workers representing A Better ABK agree with me:
We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy. We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a Walkout today. We welcome you to join us.
— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 16, 2021
Blizzard has responded to the accusations.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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