Activision Blizzard employees staged an impromptu walkout Tuesday afternoon after a bombshell investigation alleged that CEO Bobby Kotick knew for years about sexual-misconduct allegations at the gaming giant — and in at least one case even allegedly protected a male employee accused of sexual harassment.
“We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a Walkout today. We welcome you to join us.”
More than 150 people participated in the protest at the Blizzard studio campus in Irvine, California, according to gaming site Polygon.
The walkout was sparked by an explosive Wall Street Journal investigation published on Tuesday that alleged Kotick knew for years about at least some of the accusations that were in a shocking June lawsuit.
The suit accused the company of fostering a culture that allowed for sexual harassment that even drove one female employee to suicide.
Kotick also failed to inform the board of directors about alleged rapes that took place at work events and were settled by the company, the Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the board.
“Honestly, [the weight of Bobby’s words] felt threatening in a lot of ways,” Blizzard employee Valentine Powell told Polygon at the walkout, referring to the company’s response to the Journal’s story. Kotick has called the report “misleading,” but not disputed any factual allegations.
“He understands that he is in charge of the livelihoods of so many people who are trying to make our companies better, who are trying to foster the cultures that we want to see. And he’s up there saying, ‘If you don’t believe in me, then something’s wrong with you.’ His actions haven’t shown what he’s proposing.”
Another protesting worker Jessica Gonzalez are fed up with the alleged mistreatment at the company.
“Workers are just really tired,” she told Polygon.
“We’re just tired of being misrepresented, mishandled, mistreated. Something’s got to change. You can shift people around as you want, but if accountability isn’t coming from the top, it’s not going to change.”
Despite the calls for Kotick to be removed, Activision’s board of directors is sticking by the chief executive, at least for now.
“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 said in a statement Tuesday.
“The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention,” it continued.
“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.”
A spokesman for the company added that they’re “disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO.”
“Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon.”