High-profile streamer and content creator Faze Nickmercs grew so popular with the Call of Duty community that Activision eventually gave it its own branded client appearance. But that customer has now been removed from sale in the wake of his comments in a thread posted by MLG’s Chris Puckett showing an attack by an anti-LGBTQ group on a pro-LGBTQ group during Pride.
nikmirexTweetwhich has now been viewed 11.3 million times by Twitter metrics, says: “Leave young children alone. This is the real issue.”
It’s a reference to a common Republican debate point that claims the LGBTQ community is “priming” children by educating them about the existence of sexual and gender identity. It has been the focus of Florida’s “Don’t Say Like Me” laws and has become a core issue for many Republicans, especially Florida Governor himself and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.
Call of Duty responded a day later by announcing that it was removing the Spartan-themed Nickmercs customer skin from the store:
They say “recent events,” but they’re referring specifically to their own celebration of Pride, noting that Nickmercs’ comments weren’t something they wanted to be formally associated with via a partnership with top creators. The skin is not removed from the collection of those who have already purchased it, but it is no longer for sale.
Nickmercs later posted a video expanding on the tweet, saying it “didn’t mean to upset anyone” but clarified that it “doesn’t apologize for the tweet. I don’t think that’s wrong.” He claims the point he was trying to make was about how parents talk to their children about these issues rather than teachers talking about them in the classroom, sparking discussions about existing SexEd classes in schools.
Needless to say, this resulted in a huge firestorm. While the great debate in the Call of Duty community previously revolved around whether Nickmercs “deserve” their skin in the first place, there are now very vocal groups that think Activision did the wrong thing here. Conversely, Activision has been praised by LGBTQ supporters for the move, which they see as a huge win; Explanatory statement of alliance from one of the world’s largest game publishers and franchisees. Additionally, there are debates, now seen frequently on Twitter privately, about “freedom of speech,” even though Activision is a private company, capable of unilateral action independent of the First Amendment, which refers only to government. That’s what happened here.
The problem has brought other high-profile creators into the mix. Dr Disrespect called the decision “pathetic” in a tweet last night:
In addition to Nickmercs, now everyone who comments on the issues in either case is subject to the kind of intense debate we see playing out on the political stage daily, as the gaming community grapples with the same issues. Game publishers and developers have massively embraced Pride celebrations and general LGBTQ support, in the past few years in particular, so Activision’s move isn’t particularly surprising. But it has always been controversial.
Update (11:45 AM): Here’s a comment from Nick’s PR, who says he’ll continue to clarify his initial comment today:
Nick will make a statement today as he attempts to clarify his position. The “them” he referred to were the teachers/school board, and by “leave alone,” he meant to reserve conversations about sex, in any of its forms, to parents.”