EA Employees Threaten Walkout Over Whitewashed Trans Pride Support [UPDATE]

The company has said Pride social media posts "may not be political in nature."

It’s Pride Month, and workers at EA aren’t happy with the company’s lack of a public-facing comment regarding attacks on trans rights happening in America. So it sounds like a walkout is in order.

GameIndustry.biz reports that EA employees took part in a Slack discussion regarding the company’s “vague plans” to support queer initiatives during Pride Month, as well as threatened a walkout if the company slapped a Pride logo on its social media accounts without any substantive plans to support said causes. In the conversation, workers cited a blog post regarding Pride Month last year, which they felt rang hollow in the face of lack of public support for the trans community.

“If we see the company rainbow-wash their logo without making any substantive statement in support of trans people being abused nationwide in the US and elsewhere, especially after stating that the company doesn’t want to make any statement not supported by the diverse viewpoints of our 13,000 employees, we collectively walk out on Friday, June 3rd,” the message read, according to GI.biz’s report. “Just slapping a rainbow on our logo in June without any broader action will be unacceptable.”

This was followed by emails to EA’s various social teams, which told them what they can and can’t post during Pride month.

“As most of you know, when June 1 arrives, many companies lean into the Pride celebration — oftentimes with limited effort beyond rainbow washing their social account profiles,” the email read. “As we head into the month, we want to ensure our efforts to celebrate pride are meaningful.”

The email stopped short of saying any specific action the company would be taking, but said it would share more information this week. The guidelines GI.biz verified says messages and graphics posted on social channels “may not be political in nature,” and all proposed copy and graphics regarding Pride must be submitted to EA’s corporation communications team for approval.  Which likely means workers can’t do anything beyond vaguely mention support for queer communities, meaning we likely won’t be seeing EA accounts actively condemning things like the Texas ruling that parents seeking gender-affirming care for their trans children could be investigated for child abuse. Social media employees were told the company “strongly recommends activities that go beyond verbalising support for Pride,” such as pointing to Pride-related in-game activities and sharing resources. Oh, and to be sure to talk about how EA has done stuff to support Pride before.

An FAQ also told EA employees and brand social channels they had permission to tweet and retweet posts in support of LGBTQIA+ and trans rights, “providing it is authentic to your community and the brand.” Not really sure what brand or community would deem advocating for the rights and well-being of a group of people inauthentic, but that’s the wording they used. An EA employee told GI.biz the entire response “feels very hectic and haphazardly put together in an attempt to prevent the walkout.”

In the last hour, Respawn, the developer behind Apex Legends, posted an image featuring the game’s queer characters, proclaiming “trans rights are human rights,” and that the studio’s workers “stand with transgender members of [their] community […] facing discrimination and attempts to curtail their autonomy.”

All of this follows a company roundtable that took place last week, in which employees were told EA wouldn’t be making a public stance on issues like abortion rights and trans rights. In the time since, EA leadership like Respawn’s Vince Zampella and Maxis’ Lyndsay Pearson have publicly come out in support of trans people and trans rights.

A lot of games from EA’s studios feature queer characters, stories and iconography, but even games like Mass Effect have had a fraught relationship with queerness.

Update: An EA employee has reached out to GI.biz and confirmed the walkout has been called off at EA leadership said it wouldn’t be using a rainbow-branded company logo during Pride month. What will come of all of the previously mentioned Pride celebrations is yet to be seen.