Disney’s ESPN has chosen not to broadcast a recent video-game competition — one that features gun violence — in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, according to a person familiar with the plans.
ESPN is delaying its planned Aug. 10 broadcast of a recent tournament for Apex Legends, a popular battle royale game made by publisher Electronic Arts Inc., the person said, asking not to be identified as the matter is internal. The decision comes in the wake of the two shootings that prompted politicians, including President Donald Trump, to say video games that glorify violence could be contributing to the country’s shooting epidemic.
ESPN2 will air the taped segment on three nights in October, according to the person. It will still be available this weekend on ESPN’s digital channels, including its app. The original coverage was planned across ABC, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS.
Representatives for ESPN and Electronic Arts didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comments. The delay was first reported by esports journalist Rod Breslau.
Gaming and esports executives have been vocal in defending video games over the past few days. Many point to studies that find no correlation between video games and violent attacks. Others have said that video games are popular in many countries that don’t have a mass shooting crisis.
“The whole blame game is a joke,” Andy Miller, part owner of basketball’s Sacramento Kings and gaming franchise NRG Esports, said on Twitter. “Blaming video games is a ‘look over there’ move instead of a ‘look at ourselves’ reflection. Our leaders are an embarrassment on gun control. Time for the video game generation to stand up and do something.”
Shares of the biggest video-game makers, including Electronic Arts, fell earlier this week after Trump’s comments, though Bloomberg Intelligence analysts believe the industry should not fear long-term ramifications.
“Their First Amendment defenses make tighter regulation unlikely,” analysts Matthew Kanterman and Matthew Schettenhelm said in a report this week.
It’s also not the first time gaming has been accused following mass shootings. Representatives from the industry met with the president in the White House in March of last year, following the school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.