Call of Duty has removed the skin based on the famous Warzone streamers and Co-owner of FaZe Clan Nicholas “NickMercs” Kolcheff after controversy over a tweet surrounding an LGBTQ protest.
“Due to recent events, we have removed the ‘NickMercs Operator’ bundle from Modern Warfare II and Warzone store,” Activision publisher wrote in a tweet after Call of Duty news site Charlie Intel unannounced deletion noticed. “We are focused on celebrating PRIDE with our employees and our community.”
Activision’s mention of “recent events” is an apparent reference to a tweet Kolcheff made Wednesday morning. In response to a report by a clash between pro- and anti-LGBTQ protesters outside the Glendale School Board meeting in Californiawrote Kolcheff, “They should leave the little kids alone. That’s the real issue.”
Kolcheff’s statement draws swift condemnation from other esports developers, players, coaches, and commentators. “I’m disappointed in you Nick,” commentator and streamer Goldenboy wrote in a representative response. “Teaching acceptance and tolerance for ALL is an important life skill for all ages.”
In a livestream following the controversy surrounding his tweet, NickMercs said her statement focused on her belief that school is “no place to talk about things like that” and was not intended to denigrate anyone’s personal sexuality or gender identity. “It wasn’t an anti-gay tweet. That’s not what it was,” he said. “If you think I hate you because you’re a certain way, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
“I didn’t mean to upset anyone,” he added during the stream. “I know that I did. I’m not apologizing about the tweets. I don’t feel like it’s wrong. I’m going to stand by what I said. I’m not going to delete the tweet.”
Activision’s relationship with NickMercs is just the latest example of the reputational risk gaming companies can face when running promotions based on real-life gaming personalities. In 2021, Twitch removed the popular PogChamp emote from its service after it told Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez (on whom the emote was based) “encourag[ed] further violence after what happened at the Capitol” in the January 6 riots.
In 2020, Blizzard quietly removed World of Warcraft NPC John Swiftywhich is named popular streamer Swifty. While Blizzard never officially commented on that removal, the move came afterward detailed allegations of harassment came out against Swifty.
And in 2021, the Overwatch League make significant changes to an “MVP Zayra” skin and offering refunds to players after 2019 League MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won is accused of assault. Shortly after that controversy, the Overwatch League announced it will no longer create custom skins based on the annual league MVP.
This is not the first time to be a member of the publicly traded FaZe Clan The esports team has faced controversy for public statements, either. Clan member Evan “Cented” Barron is kicked out for “using hate speech” last year, according to a clan statement. And member Talal ‘Virus’ Almalki drew controversy last year for publicly denying any support for the clan’s Pride Month activities.