Yesterday, professional Hearthstone player Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen took to Twitter, claiming that he’d been blacklisted from recent events owing to a dispute between his wife (a former Blizzard employee) and a Hearthstone community manager.
This is the reason that was given to me when I said I want to play at this event. My wife was part of the 800 layoffs and she spoke up about the injust practices of company. I was told I am a liability because of who I am married to. https://t.co/G34OuHHL5L
— Savjz (@Savjz) June 23, 2020
The origin of the dispute has its roots in a round of layoffs Activision Blizzard conducted last year. In brief, 800 employees were laid off as part of a reduction-in-force plan revealed on the same day as an announcement reporting record profits for the year. Christina Mikkonen was herself a Hearthstone community manager and one of those who were laid off. Over the next year, she complained on Twitter about the situation and the knock-on effects of the layoff, such as advertisements for positions that had ostensibly been eliminated.
One such tweet, directed at another Hearthstone community manager still employed by Blizzard, was the catalyst for the blacklisting. Savjz did not indicate whether the notice came out of Blizzard directly or was relayed through the management of Team Liquid, who he plays for. All that he was aware of was that he wasn’t being invited to events and that his wife was not welcome to attend them with him. A follow-up tweet indicated there had been a spurious claim of an NDA not being signed, but Savjz stated that no such NDA had ever been brought up. The community lead (not the community manager who was responsible) apologized and informed Savjz that he would be invited to events again and that his wife was entirely welcome to attend.
I got an apology from the community lead.
I am now OK to participate in future events, and my wife is OK to visit future live events as a guest.
I had no idea this would blow up the way it did. Thanks to everyone who sort of came to my aid? I don’t know how to say it better.
— Savjz (@Savjz) June 24, 2020
“We still feel like we were treated unfairly, but I really want to just move past this,” said Savjz.
At present, this entire incident appears to be the result of a single employee who grossly exceeded their authority. However, coming in the wake of Blizzard’s handling of the Hong Kong protests and their stripping of prize money from “blitzchung,” it’s one more indication of severe cultural and governance issues within Activision Blizzard.
Update: A Blizzard representative has reached out to GameLuster with the following statement: “Savjz was not excluded from yesterday’s Battlegrounds Brawl event due to his relationship or any type of blacklist. We didn’t consider him for it due to a discussion where he did not agree to our request for confidentiality. We reveal unreleased information at our events, so it’s important to us to have agreements in place with all partners that prevent the sharing of that info with anyone who isn’t approved to receive it, including friends and family. This is a team policy, not an individual’s decision. We strive to support and treat fairly all of our partners, content creators, and streamers.”