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The Reason Behind Jen Oneal's Departure, Bobby Kotick's Knowledge of Previous Sexual Misconduct Allegations: A Wall Street Journal Report

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The Wall Street Journal published a very detailed article dealing mostly with Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick's knowledge of the recent allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the company, including the real reason Jen Oneal left her leadership position at Blizzard. Kotick, Activision Blizzard employees, the board of directors, and the ABK Workers Alliance also responded below.

The article is based on unnamed sources within Activision Blizzard and focuses on how much CEO Bobby Kotick knew about the allegations and what's he's done about them throughout the years, including stories of sexual harassment from various Activision Blizzard studios, including Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games and Blizzard itself.

The biggest piece of Blizzard-specific news in the article is regarding the recent departure of co-lead Jen Oneal, who announced she was leaving earlier this month to "explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well". However, an internal company email paints an entirely different picture of her departure, as the Wall Street Journal explains:

In August, Activision named a longtime employee, Jennifer Oneal, to be Blizzard’s co-head, making her the first woman to lead one of the company’s business units. The following month, she sent an email to a member of Activision’s legal team in which she professed a lack of faith in Activision’s leadership to turn the culture around, saying “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.”

Ms. Oneal said in the email she had been sexually harassed earlier in her career at Activision, and that she was paid less than her male counterpart at the helm of Blizzard, and wanted to discuss her resignation. “I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against,” wrote Ms. Oneal, who is Asian-American and gay.

- The Wall Street Journal

The article continues to list various incidents from different Activision Blizzard studios in which Bobby Kotick allegedly either had knowledge of, or directly intervened in sexual harassment incidents to protect accused developers, or did not report some of the cases to the board of directors, including sexual assault allegations. You can read the full article here, as it delves into many individual stories from the company's past.

Bobby Kotick responded to the article in an internal video on his commitment to the company and its future. Here's the transcript:

Blizzard LogoA Message from CEO Bobby Kotick (Source)

Today, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick shared a video message with the company's employees. Here is the transcript of his remarks:

--

"I want to talk with you today about our future and reiterate my conviction to create the most welcoming and inclusive workplace.

Over the last few months, so many of you have generously and candidly shared your experiences and your insights about the type of company you want us to be.

We’ve taken meaningful actions to improve our company and our culture. But there is more to do.  To become the model workplace we all aspire to be, more change is required. But I am so confident we will get there.

There will, of course, be continued media attention about us and our industry over the next few months. In fact, there’s an article today that paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership. 

I want to say two important things about this:

First, we are incredibly fortunate to have the most talented people in our industry all so committed to constant improvement. And I share this commitment.

The second thing I want to say is that anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.

Creativity and inspiration thrives best in a safe, welcoming, respectful environment.  There is no substitute for that. And staying true to our values, without exceptions, is the best way to retain our talent and to attract the new talent we need to achieve our great potential.

As I have made clear, we are moving forward with a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior -- and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable.

We have a chance to further enhance our culture and be the example other companies will follow. And we are so incredibly fortunate. Connecting and engaging the world through joy and fun is a powerful mission. Accomplishing this in a welcoming, inclusive workplace ensures we will achieve our mission with excellence.

Over the last few years our industry has had an uncomfortable spotlight that’s been illuminating opportunities for us to change. And we must all, including me, embrace this need for change, so we can bring our very best selves to the very best place to work.

Thank you for your commitment to a culture of respect, your appreciation for the unique talents we each possess, and for maintaining the very best environment for all of us to work.

For that, I am truly grateful."

The ABK Workers Alliance commented specifically on Kotick's response to the article and announced an employee walkout:

Jason Schreier of Bloomberg reports that the walkout is already fairly large:

The Activision Blizzard board of directors has stated that they are standing by Kotick:

Blizzard LogoATVI Board of Directors (Source)

SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 16, 2021-- The Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI) Board of Directors released the following statement responding to recent media stories.

“The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry. Under Bobby Kotick's leadership the Company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.

The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick's leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”

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Stock price in free fall, again.

Though really, getting rid of Kottick will definitely not stop (and probably make it even worse) that so I understand the board.

Edited by Nym85

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You know... some of these people seem like they're more concerned with finding faults and things to be outraged about than they are making good games that people want to buy and play.

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If Riot Games is anything to go by, nothing will change. The same exact thing happened there and they're still around. This happened 3 years ago.

Now people are praising Riot because of the numerous announcements. So yeah, the same will happen with Blizz

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13 minutes ago, Dejo93 said:

If Riot Games is anything to go by, nothing will change. The same exact thing happened there and they're still around. This happened 3 years ago.

Now people are praising Riot because of the numerous announcements. So yeah, the same will happen with Blizz

For most of the gamers this would a non issue if not for the fact that the company has had poor releases in the past few years and nothing to show for at least the next year. The biggest dive for the stock after all came after they said they had nothing to announce for the immediate future; this set of news just makes the entire company seem even more dysfunctional. So they were already on their way to be in deep *filtered* even without the harassment issues.

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18 minutes ago, Prophet001 said:

You know... some of these people seem like they're more concerned with finding faults and things to be outraged about than they are making good games that people want to buy and play.

The news mainly care about what might be newsworthy and rich people abusing their power is always that. Them getting away with it is even juicier.

 

What we know is that the company has *filtered* up practices and that means that there will be significant distractions that will affect the products we get to see. Sure you might not care about the harassment personally but ultimately if you expect the devs to just suck it when it's gotten pretty bad, that's a weird take. It's management's fault if the company structure is not working so direct your anger that way.

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1 hour ago, Nym85 said:

For most of the gamers this would a non issue if not for the fact that the company has had poor releases in the past few years and nothing to show for at least the next year. The biggest dive for the stock after all came after they said they had nothing to announce for the immediate future; this set of news just makes the entire company seem even more dysfunctional. So they were already on their way to be in deep *filtered* even without the harassment issues.

It's true, many players are simply unaware of this situation or just don't care. But if they are hearing "Diablo 4 is not coming any time soon", then suddenly they are concerned.

Anyway, this whole situation just keeps getting "better". I doubt anything is going to happen to Kotick, as long as his company keeps making money (largest part of of their income is from King anyway).

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23 minutes ago, BobTheHuman said:

Easy fix, instead of succubus make Warlocks summon a mango. Problem solved.

Both are designed to seduce the appetites.

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2 hours ago, Dejo93 said:

If Riot Games is anything to go by, nothing will change. The same exact thing happened there and they're still around. This happened 3 years ago.

Now people are praising Riot because of the numerous announcements. So yeah, the same will happen with Blizz

isnt riot actually in the changing process? i mean if i had to pay over 11 mio $ to social projects, change many parts of my company, pay every worker who identifies as a woman and was in the company for a specific amount of time (forgot the time range) extra money, add extra female tournaments with price pool and plenty more gender equality stuff, which costs extra money, i wouldnt let it get back to that sexism level again to get even worse reputation because its the 2nd time and pay even more money because its the 2nd time. 

i think it will take time but something is changing. also while that started 3 years ago its still ongoing

Edited by ResoWho

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38 minutes ago, ResoWho said:

isnt riot actually in the changing process? i mean if i had to pay over 11 mio $ to social projects, change many parts of my company, pay every worker who identifies as a woman and was in the company for a specific amount of time (forgot the time range) extra money, add extra female tournaments with price pool and plenty more gender equality stuff, which costs extra money, i wouldnt let it get back to that sexism level again to get even worse reputation because its the 2nd time and pay even more money because its the 2nd time. 

i think it will take time but something is changing. also while that started 3 years ago its still ongoing

Yuuup

Wouldn't surprise me if this happened again

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I like how the co-lead who departed talked about not staying silent, but kept silent herself apparently.  Nothing will change about harassment issues until EVERYONE is willing to talk about it publicly.  Maybe if she had admitted this publicly when she had been appointed it would have been easier to make changes, or it at least would have seemed like a better move for a victim of harassment to be appointed to a leadership position.  Cause the truth is no matter how painful it is for victims of harassment to talk about it, staying silent and not going public just emboldens the perpetrators and allows them to continue their actions again and again.  Now it just kinda seems like she gave up and stayed silence to either protect her career or someone elses.  And if her leadership position didn't allow her to ya know lead and make changes what was the point of the job anyway??  Does Blizz leadership have the ability to make any changes for themselves or are they completely under the thumb of the higher ups at Activision??  

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17 hours ago, Prophet001 said:

You know... some of these people seem like they're more concerned with finding faults and things to be outraged about than they are making good games that people want to buy and play.

It's almost like they know they deserve a space to create in that isn't hostile to their race, gender, sexuality, origin, or creed.

Edited by SidonisAntares
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13 hours ago, Calorat said:

Cause the truth is no matter how painful it is for victims of harassment to talk about it, staying silent and not going public just emboldens the perpetrators and allows them to continue their actions again and again.

If she remained silent due to receiving threats, then it's even worse. Or perhaps she really wanted to protect her career and this is why she didn't reveal their dirty laundry. Her reasoning for leaving was already weird to say the least. She was so inspired by the company, so she left? This didn't make any sense.

Makes me wonder how much Jeff Kaplan knew, in light of the recent events, there might be more to his departure. He remains completely silent since he left the company.

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17 hours ago, TyZone said:

Both are designed to seduce the appetites.

1. Lusting after food is not problematic in WoW, yet.

2. It is Blizzard's way of dealing with that kind of situation, I'm simply poiting out the obvious solution for them.

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On 11/17/2021 at 6:34 PM, Arcling said:

If she remained silent due to receiving threats, then it's even worse. Or perhaps she really wanted to protect her career and this is why she didn't reveal their dirty laundry. Her reasoning for leaving was already weird to say the least. She was so inspired by the company, so she left? This didn't make any sense.

Makes me wonder how much Jeff Kaplan knew, in light of the recent events, there might be more to his departure. He remains completely silent since he left the company.

I think I've seen in more than one article comments about Kaplan doing everything he could to shield his team from this bullshit. Hope it's true.

 

On Oneal not saying much, I think it might have to do with her securing a significant payout for her charity.

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43 minutes ago, Nym85 said:

I think I've seen in more than one article comments about Kaplan doing everything he could to shield his team from this bullshit. Hope it's true.

It came quite recently I think, that bit about Kaplan trying to protect his team. Although there is one more thing, Kaplan was friends with Alex Afrasiabi, who was named in a lawsuit. He also introduced him to Blizzard. So no idea if he truly didn't know about what his friend was doing (seems unlikely, as Kaplan was a VP) or did he know and chose to ignore it, do nothing?

47 minutes ago, Nym85 said:

On Oneal not saying much, I think it might have to do with her securing a significant payout for her charity.

Possible, still sounds bad, like a bribe to remain silent.

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