Free Speech, Video Games, and Community Management

If you have been paying attention to the news recently, you have heard of the story of Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeled Clippers, who chastised his girlfriend for, basically being seen in public associating with black people. This association, by the way, was a picture with Magic Johnson posted to the internet. To me, that is just awesome, but hey, old racism never dies. Long story short, Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life and was fine $2.5 million dollars, a move that many people are looking at as just.


But not everyone feels that way, and that has caused some controversy in our own world of video games. Josh Olin, community manager for Turtle Rock, the creator of Left 4 Dead and the developer of the upcoming Xbox One/PS4/PC game Evolve, seems to sympathize with Donald Sterling. Olin posted this to twitter the other day “Here’s an unpopular opinion: Donald Sterling has the right as an American to be an old bigot in the security of his own home. He’s a victim.”

This, of course, did not sit well with many people, and as a result Olin was fired from Turtle Rock studios. This was revealed by a post on Turtle rock’s Twitter, which referred to him as a “former” community manager.

"The comments made by our former community manager stand in stark contrast to our values as a game development studio," Turtle Rock said. "We sincerely apologize for his remarks and in no way endorse or support those views."


Olin responded to these sentiments in a statement to Kotaku which read:

Anyone who follows me knows my tweets were not in support of Sterling's actions. Rather, they were promoting three core tenets I believe in: 1) The harm sensational media presents to society. 2) The importance and sanctity of your privacy within your own home. And 3) The right to be whatever you want to be as an American, as long as it isn't hurting anyone else. That last point not to be confused with condoning Sterling's actions, which I don't.

That said, it's disappointing to see that a select few in Turtle Rock and 2K Games management bought into this hysteria without even having a conversation with me--or even thoroughly reviewing the context of the tweets themselves. Ironically, it serves as a great example of why I hold tenet #1 above so close to heart. That said, everyone should totally still buy Evolve. The guys and gals making that game know their ***, and are making it good.

Something that, in my opinion, Olin is missing here is that no one has removed Sterling’s right to be a crotchety old bigot in his home. He can still do so and there won’t be government agents busting down his doors to shoot him in the face for thought crimes. What the NBA has done is removed Sterling’s right to be a crotchety old bigot in the NBA. They, as a business, have a right to not employ someone who doesn’t fit the ideas of the organization. Heck, if you can get fired from a waitress position for having pink hair, you can get fired from the NBA for being a bigot.

That’s the thing; no one here has removed Sterling’s right to free speech. The right to free speech allows you to say what you like without the government arresting you. It does not make your speech free of consequences. Sterling’s statements had the consequences of getting him fined and banned from the NBA. Olin’s speech has the consequences of getting him fired from Turtle Rock. My speech will probably have the consequences of being flamed by a bunch of people who support both Olin and Sterling in the comments.

Of course, XKCD explained it much better than I did, so head over here to have a simple rundown of what free speech actually means.

Angelo M. D'Argenio
Angelo M. D'Argenio

Former Contributing Writer
Date: 05/05/2014

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