If the gaming industry ever wanted to present itself as more inclusive, it just missed an opportunity, as it has decided to slam the door in one very specific pro team’s face. Team YP has now been banned from the Electronic Sports League (ESL) in what may be an attempt by the competitive gaming industry to become more palatable to the masses — and apparently, the industry doesn’t think being palatable includes having a team that is sponsored by adult entertainment site YouPorn.
Updated on 04-25-2016 by Lulu Chang: ESL offers statement, noting, “Advertising pornography is not legal in the markets we operate in.”
The ESL maintains a rule that disallows any sponsors “widely known for pornographic … or other adult/mature themes and products.” And YouPorn certainly falls within that category.
In a statement given to Digital Trends, the League asserted the following:
“Advertising pornography is not legal in the markets we operate in, and the vast majority of partners we’re working with have strict ‘no drugs, no alcohol, no pornography’ rules that we’ve contractually taken on board. These aren’t new rules, but ones that have been in our rulebooks for a long time. We have spoken to Team YP manager earlier this year and in that conversation we’ve explained the situation and rules in detail, and offered to look for potential alternatives in a bigger group. At the same time, we’re consulting with our legal teams about this. We will inform the team and the management as soon as we have any updates.
Team YP hasn’t played in any of our professional leagues (ESL One, IEM, Pro League). The rule has been put in place and enforced since more than a year and a half ago, and there are more examples of situations where Team YP has been either asked to change [its] name or warned they won’t be able to play/qualify for an event under the Team YP flag. However, discussions with the teams have been going on for a long time so it is not like we just decided to enforce it now, they just made it public now.”
YouPorn’s entry into the gaming world last year came as a bit of a surprise, but it was a calculated strategic decision, according to executives at the entertainment site. After all, the gaming world is highly appealing to young men, a similar demographic targeted by porn sites. But YouPorn was careful in its sponsorship — its TeamYP gaming website declined to promote the YouPorn brand or adult entertainment. And while Fortune reported back in September that YouPorn hadn’t “had any negative reaction from leagues or publishers to date,” that has since changed.
While Team YP has attempted to convince ESL that its connections to YouPorn are tenuous at best, even suggesting that they could rebrand themselves so as to eliminate “YP” altogether, the League appears unmoved.
Team YP, for its part, has expressed concern over the ban. “I am disappointed that Team YP’s growth is being stunted by this decision, not to mention the effect that this will have on our roster of players,” Team YP manager Claire Fisher told GamesBeat. “While for some, our participation in esports has been controversial, stopping our players from competing because they are sponsored by us, in spite of Team YP operating as a completely SFW [safe for work] brand, clearly separated from any adult content, seems unfair to say the least.”
Even as the gaming industry grows increasingly lucrative, the salaries of participants (the gamers themselves), are paid almost exclusively by their sponsors, not by ESL. “In the end, this is mostly impacting the income of gamers who want to be sponsored,” said Fisher. “Without which, esports wouldn’t be able to operate in the way that it does.”