An Overwatch esports team has dropped the Contenders league’s first female pro after a wave of harassment.
The player, known only by her online handle “Ellie”, was brought onto Second Wind on December 22nd. Immediately, conspiracy theories spread across the community due to her low account level and sudden appearance on the ranked circuit.
Rumours were furthered thanks to Ellie’s decision to not disclose her real name, as is the norm in the Overwatch Contenders league. Many believed she may have been any number of male players running a smurf account, with a female friend on hand to speak in voice chat.
All that said, there was a largely hostile atmosphere surrounding Ellie’s involvement in the Contenders League - a league that acts as a stepping stone towards the Overwatch League proper. Earlier this week, Second Wind announced that Ellie has decided to step down from the team roster.
Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen reactions, Ellie has opted to step down from the team. We hope you continue to support her in her ventures in Overwatch as we will— Second Wind (@SecondWindGG) January 2, 2019
Rather frustratingly, Second Wind owner Justin Hughes offered a very “both sides” clarification. Naturally, female fans will be excited to see themselves represented in on a professional level, but this excitement is portrayed as just as guilty as the extensive harassment.
“When we brought her onto the team, people acted like we had brought on a symbol of empowerment,” said Hughes, on his own Twitter feed. “I get that people meant well, but on one side, we had people questioning her legitimacy, issuing threats, etc. while on the other hand, we had people acting like they had found their Messiah”.
“Between needing a player to live up to huge expectations and having to question their own safety, it seems that the OW community isn’t ready to just view a player as just a player. We wanted a player, but it seemed like the public wanted something else.”
At the heart of the toxicity and conspiracy surrounding Ellie’s involvement is a simple question - if she really is a higher-level Pro player smurfing, why would they pretend to be a woman in an environment that has proven itself extremely to female players?
Esports has yet to prove that it can be a welcoming place for anyone who fails to fit an extremely limited set of criteria.
Ellie herself provided a single, one-word tweet following the entire affair.
sorry— ellie (@ellie_ow) January 2, 2019