Twitch streamer and former Overwatch League pro, Felix "xQc" Lengyel, revealed that during his esports career, some Overwatch players wanted to unionize after they disagreed with certain terms stipulated in their contractual agreement. xQc contends that the players were ultimately pressured into signing their official Overwatch League contracts, despite this disagreement, which eventually shut down discussions of unionization from ever happening.
xQc reveals Overwatch League players wanted to unionize
In a Twitch stream with Hasan Piker (otherwise known as HasanAbi) and Alex Press, a political journalist at the left-wing quarterly magazine Jacobin, xQc explained how the Overwatch League pressurized pro players to sign their contracts early in the process.
xQc said that the Overwatch League personnel gave players "these big a** contracts at the end of this conference, which every player had to sign to accept the official Overwatch League agreements." He mentioned that the document was huge and that "not everybody agreed with what was in the document," adding that players thought it was "kind of stupid."
xQc talking about the pressure put on Overwatch League players to sign contracts early in the process. This is in a discussion about players considering unionising and that pressure pretty much killed the discussion, it seems. pic.twitter.com/Z1FTTAhy4k— Tamoor Hussain (@tamoorh) October 18, 2021
The Twitch star then continued, saying: "And then people started to bring up in the room, like, maybe we should unionize or talk about this" before claiming that the Overwatch League only gave players "24 hours to sign."
As a result of the pressure placed on players by the Overwatch League, xQc said that "every player just signed it and that was the end of it," adding that players "didn't talk about unionizing for years and it never happened."
While we cannot comment on the legality of these claims, we feel that players should have been provided with a more reasonable timeframe to liaise with their lawyers and managers regarding the terms of their contract.
The lack of governance in esports is quite apparent though and stems from the absence of a representative body for esports players, teams and organizations to engage with matters regarding arbitration or contract negotiations. In fact, this is well known and has been noted previously in the scientific literature as well.
To Activision Blizzard's credit, they did recently announce the removal of competitive balance tax; or rather "soft cap" of salaries, for Overwatch League pros, which should result in higher salaries for pro players in the future.
While this may signal some progress, it remains to be seen whether more will be done to protect the rights of players competing in the Overwatch League, and in other esports events.
For more on all things Overwatch, check out our dedicated section filled with news, tournament results, and more.
Featured image courtesy of Blizzard.