Telecom T-Mobile appears to have withdrawn its sponsorship of Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League and Call of Duty League amid controversy at the game publisher, which was recently sued by California regulators over sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims. News of T-Mobile’s withdrawal from Activision Blizzard’s esports leagues was first reported by Dexerto.
Polygon has reached out to T-Mobile and Blizzard Entertainment for confirmation of T-Mobile’s decision, but did not hear back. However, T-Mobile’s logo was pulled from both the Overwatch League and COD League’s lists of sponsorship partners. Mention of T-Mobile has also been excluded from recent tweets from the Overwatch League’s Twitter account and in a recent broadcast.
T-Mobile was previously listed as the official 5G Sponsor of the COD League and offered “T-Mobile Weekly Drops” for fans. However, as noted by Dexerto, T-Mobile appears to have canceled the latest 5G T-Mobile Drop without explanation.
A more obvious indicator of T-Mobile’s decision comes from the Call of Duty League, where during a recent match featuring the New York Subliners, that team wore stickers over their jerseys apparently to obscure the telecom’s logo (they also wore duct tape to less elegantly obscure a Draft Kings sponsorship logo).
T-Mobile still appears on the Overwatch League’s 2021 rewards guide, which is branded with a T-Mobile Perks logo, but a tweet posted Monday from the OWL about those perks makes no mention of the sponsor.
Similarly, T-Mobile-sponsored Overwatch League team New York Excelsior no longer lists the telecom as one of its official partners in a recent match between NYXL and the Shanghai Dragons. The following images are taken from OWL broadcasts from July 11 and July 31:
The Overwatch League’s partners page still lists Xfinity, IBM, Coca-Cola, State Farm, Cheez-It, Pringles, and Teamspeak as sponsors, as of Tuesday. Call of Duty League’s partners show as the U.S. Army, Astro, Zenni Gaming, Scuf, Mtn Dew Game Fuel, and USAA Insurance.
In July, Activision Blizzard was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for creating a “frat boy culture” that allowed gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment to proliferate. Several top executives, including former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, were named in the lawsuit for knowing about and enabling the alleged behavior. The DFEH said it conducted a two-year investigation into Activision Blizzard before filing the suit.
Immediately following the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard made an official statement in which it said the lawsuit included “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” Activision Blizzard executive (and former George W. Bush homeland security advisor) Frances Townsend called the lawsuit “truly meritless and irresponsible” in a statement that’s since been criticized by current and former staff. Thousands of Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter asking for Townsend to step down as the executive sponsor of the women’s network. Following the letter, Activision Blizzard employees in California and elsewhere walked out of work in protest of leadership response.
On Tuesday, J. Allen Brack stepped down as president of Blizzard Entertainment. He will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the company.