Content warning: language about sexual assault.
Earlier this week the Overwatch League’s first-ever champions, the London Spitfire, apologized to fans after a video recording of a practice session in which two players joked about rape leaked online. The person who first surfaced the recording then later deleted it after apparent Discord messages of theirs involving hentai (anime porn) appeared online in response. All some Overwatch 2 fans can do is shake their heads in collective embarrassment.
One March 14, a clip seemingly from a private London Spitfire scrimmage session appeared to show tank player Daniel “Hadi” Bleinagel and Vancouver Titans support Robert “Skairipa” Lupsa making light of sexual assault. “I’m raping,” Lupsa could apparently be heard saying in the recording, Dexerto reports, while Bleinagel also referred to himself as a “rapist” at some point, thought the context of that statement was harder to make out.
The London Spitfire put out a statement the following day confirming the incident, calling the language inappropriate and apologizing to fans and the larger Overwatch community. “We are taking immediate action as a result of these events,” the organization wrote. “The players involved will be partaking in sensitivity training administered by a professional.”
Both players also posted their own separate apologies on Twitter. Bleinagel, who won the Overwatch League’s 2022 Hawelka Award for positivity, wrote that “Using these kinds of words in this context is very wrong, childish, and unprofessional.” Lupsa, who is now believed to be the newest addition to the London Spitfire’s roster, wrote, “R*pe and s*xual ass*ult are very serious and I wholeheartedly am remorseful for the words I chose as they devalue and make light of an evil act that has affected many people’s lives.” He added that he was sorry for still following Andrew Tate on Twitter, a notorious misogynistic grifter who was arrested in Romania in December on charges of rape and human trafficking.
But wait, there’s more.
The user who originally surfaced the incriminating clip on Twitter, later deleted their tweet after other users started sharing screenshots of them seemingly sharing hentai on Discord that depicted a minor. Then those users seemingly had their own incriminating private conversations leaked. Screenshots on the OverwatchTMZ subreddit appeared to show them using the n-word and making racist jokes. “This is too tmz for this sub,” wrote one person in response.
Toxicity and esports have long gone hand-in-hand, a nasty but persistent truth that continues to brush up against the ideals Overwatch tries to project of a welcoming, inclusive, and diverse fandom that just has fun playing a wild sci-fi fantasy hero shooter and watching the best players on earth compete against one another. Look no farther than Blizzard repeatedly trying to ban a user-made “sexual harassment mode.” I’m sure a little more sensitivity training will finally do the trick.