More than 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed a letter, sent out today, calling the company’s response to recent allegations “abhorrent and insulting.” The letter follows a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing last Tuesday. In the suit, the DFEH accused the company of rampant “frat boy” culture that promoted sexual harassment and discrimination.
In response to the allegations, Activision Blizzard lashed out, calling them “distorted” and “false.” The company criticized the DFEH, writing that the investigation was driven by “unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”
Emails reported by Blooomberg’s Jason Schreier not long after the filing was made public showed contradicting messages. In an email sent by Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, he called the allegations “extremely troubling,” and that the behavior in the claims “completely unacceptable.” Fran Townsend, who joined Activision Blizzard in March as an executive, wrote in an email that the lawsuit “presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company,” and that the details were “old” and “out of context.” The responses present a stark, tonal shift between the two.
Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who was the Homeland Security Advisor to George W. Bush from 2004-2007 and joined Activision in March, sent out a very different kind of email that has some Blizzard employees fuming. pic.twitter.com/BxGeMTuRYF
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 23, 2021
The employees’ letter calling out Activision Blizzard
More than 1,000 employees of the company signed a letter decrying Activision Blizzard’s response to the lawsuit. In the letter reported by Bloomberg, the employees state that the response “damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry.” The letter calls back to the initial response by the company, saying that the message “creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims.” The full letter is below (cheers, Kotaku):
We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.
We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.
Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action — and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.
We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees — as well as our community — have a safe place to speak out and come forward.
We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.
Current and former members speak out
Over the weekend, former employees of the company spoke up on the allegations. Former Blizzard VP Chris Metzen apologized on Twitter, writing, “I offer you my very deepest apologies for the part I played in a culture that fostered harassment, inequality, and indifference.” Mike Morhaime, the company’s prior chief executive, published a letter on Twitter, which read: “The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges,” and, “To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.”
Jeff Hamilton, the senior system designer on World of Warcraft, also provided a message on Twitter, saying “almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out.” Within the Twitter thread, Hamilton wrote, “I find Activision’s corporate response wholly unacceptable. I don’t stand by it, any of it. It is evil to usurp a victim’s story into a rhetorical bludgeon, and it is abhorrent to reply to these accusations with anything other than a well-thought-out plan to correct these abuses.”
I find Activision’s corporate response wholly unacceptable. I don't stand by it, any of it. It is evil to usurp a victim’s story into a rhetorical bludgeon, and it is abhorrent to reply to these accusations with anything other than a well-thought-out plan to correct these abuses.
— Jeff Hamilton (@JeffAHamilton) July 25, 2021
We’ll likely hear more stories as time continues. It should also be noted that Activision Blizzard has seemingly gone on a social media blackout, with no messages published by its franchise gaming accounts since July 21.