Activision under fire for calling minority hiring requirement “unworkable”

Theo Salaun

Activision Blizzard have begun receiving backlash across social media for rebutting a “Rooney Rule” diversity hiring proposal by suggesting it would ruin their chances to remain competitive in the gaming industry.

Update, January 28: Activision has now responded, saying that the SEC filing has been “mischaracterized”. Their full statement is given below.

The “Rooney Rule,” a 2003 program implemented by the National Football League, requires that teams must interview at least one non-white person when hiring a coach. In years since, that has extended to provide opportunities for women and for positions outside of head coach.

Now, the largest American union conglomerate, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), has proposed a similar program to gaming giants Activision and Electronic Arts.

While EA have suggested interest while remaining noncommittal, Activision’s legal team has already shot down the initiative. Suggesting that implementation would slow their business down at a detriment to competitiveness, Activision appears unwilling to adopt the program and their response has sparked backlash.

Vice’s Lauren Kaori Gurley and Patrick Klepek sourced details from AFL-CIO’s proposal and Activision’s response for an investigative piece that reveals why the company is so resistant. The suggested program would follow the Rooney Rule by implementing a policy that necessitates the interviewing of minority candidates (non-white and non-male) for open positions.

In response, a spokesperson claimed that “talent is the lifeblood of Activision Blizzard,” that the company’s diverse employees reflect a global audience and that the company has numerous programs to promote diversity (e.g. “scholarship programs … and the Equal Justice Initiative”).

Nonetheless, the company’s legal team more specifically responded to the proposal by stating that the Rooney Rule already exists for executive hires, but “implementing a policy that would extend such an approach to all hiring decisions amounts to an unworkable encroachment on the Company’s ability to run its business and compete for talent in a highly competitive, fast-moving market.”

Community feedback to that statement has been negative.

twitter activision backlash

While some replies have centered around words like “horrific” and “yikes,” others have delved deeper by bringing up census data and industry examples. As mentioned by ‘MagusFirebeard,’ Santa Monica (where Activision is headquartered) has a sizable non-white population, suggesting that a pool of candidates is accessible.  

One user brought up Facebook’s 2015 agreement to a similar policy. This echoes Vice’s mentions of J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, who each agreed to AFL-CIO diversity hiring proposals earlier this month. 

Update, January 28: Activision responds

In a statement, Activision Blizzard president and COO Daniel Alegre said: “Activision Blizzard is committed to inclusive hiring practices and to creating a diverse workforce; it is essential to our mission. Vice completely mischaracterized the SEC filing made by our outside attorneys. In fact, our hiring practices are rooted in ensuring diversity for all roles. We engage in this aggressively and successfully. Our objection was rooted in the fact that the AFL-CIO proposal failed to adequately consider how to apply these practices in all of the countries we operate in.

“Our games have uniquely influenced popular culture and have helped to increase tolerance and inclusion through their connectivity as well as the heroes we portray and our stories that celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion in so many powerful ways.

“In order to ensure that our games stay true to our mission–to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment – we require that all candidates of all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, races and sexual orientations are considered for each and every open role. We aggressively recruit diverse candidates so the workforce provides the inspired creativity required to meet the expectations of our diverse 400 million players across 190 countries. We remain committed to increasing diversity at all levels throughout Activision Blizzard worldwide.”

Related Topics

About The Author

Théo is a former writer at Dexerto based in New York and built on competition. Formerly an editor for Bleacher Report and philosophy student at McGill, he fell in love with Overwatch and Call of Duty — leading him to focus on esports for Dex.