Apex Legends Dev Fired Over Past Sexist, Racist Comments

Apex Legends Dev Fired Over Past Sexist, Racist Comments
Screenshot: Respawn Entertainment / EA

Daniel Klein, a lead game designer on Apex Legends, was recently fired from his job at Respawn Entertainment after screenshots of old blog posts and public conversations surfaced showing the developer making both sexist and racist comments.

These images, which came to light last month, include derogatory remarks about both women and people from Africa. In one, Klein is seen referring to XX chromosomes (a biological designation traditionally used to indicate the female sex) as the “moron chromosomes.” Another shows him speaking about his African neighbours as if they were animals, saying, “If you feed them, they’ll come back and shit all over the place.”

Klein acknowledged that these screenshots were real on July 27, apologizing for their contents while also noting that the comments were from 2007. According to additional research done by Apex Legends personality Thordan Smash, this means Klein would have been around 27 years old at the time.

The news of Klein’s firing was broken yesterday afternoon by the developer himself, who published a lengthy Twitter thread explaining the situation and apologizing again for his past comments.

“I have poured so much energy into becoming a better person since then, and right now I’m just very depressed because it feels I’ll never be able to make up for who I was,” Klein wrote. “I said racist and sexist things, not because I deeply believed any of them, but because I knew I could get a reaction out of people. That does not excuse anything I said; the impact of my words was the same regardless of what I believed.”

Klein, who previously worked as a League of Legends designer at Riot Games, has had a contentious relationship with the Apex Legends community since joining Respawn Entertainment in early 2020. His progressive politics and work on gameplay balance for Apex Legends characters like Wattson often led to squabbles and harassment on social media, some of which Kotaku has seen play out first-hand. Some have posited that this may have been the driving factor for the discovery of these past statements.

When contacted by Kotaku for comment, Klein agreed with this theory.

“I fully own the awful, bigoted statements I made in 2007 and am disgusted with my younger self for making them,” Klein said via email. “But there’s also no doubt in my mind that they came to light because someone went looking for things to hurt me with. EA was aware of this allegation, and I specifically asked them to be on the lookout for these strategies being used against other employees in the future.”

Kotaku reached out to Respawn parent company EA about Klein’s termination and whether these contextual circumstances were taken into account, but didn’t hear back before publication.

Video game companies big and small are understandably on high alert following the publication of the state of California’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision Blizzard. Ubisoft leadership, who themselves were embroiled in a similar scandal just last year, are still being criticised by workers for their inaction. Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor recently reduced his role from creative lead to writer at the same time news broke about the “toxic” environment he contributed to at the Gone Home studio.

“I wished they’d taken a risk and kept me on,” Klein added in his email to Kotaku, “but I cannot ask anyone to take that risk.”

Comments

  • This shit is happening due to bullshit he said in 2007 and nothing even remotely recent? Are we being fucking serious right now?

    Oh wait, I mean… Yeah, fuck that guy! Because nobody has ever changed as a person at all over the course of 14 years.

    I mean it’s not like time affords people the ability to reflect on past thoughts or perspectives and realise they were an idiot over a fucking decade ago.

    Let’s just start executing anyone guilty of any crime while we’re at it… Don’t want to risk them shoplifting again over a decade from now.

    • Just so you know, this is a very similar case to James Gunn’s. Someone who said objectively problematic stuff a long time ago but ever since made strides to be more progressive and show it in their work. Bigots wanting to silence their current output dig out those things and make a huge stink to get those people fired. Because huge companies don’t have the willingness to apply nuanced thinking to customer feedback, they simply get rid of people to cover their own asses.

      • Since it’s not 100% clear in this and other responses that mention James Gunn, for the benefit of anyone reading this who is not otherwise familiar with the background, James Gunn was fired after his old tweets were dredged up and publicised by alt-right bloggers and 4chan-types as payback for Gunn publically criticising Donald Trump. It wasn’t the result of a left-wing campaign to cancel him.

        • Man, I still remember those idiots trying to roleplay as their imaginary version of what a “woke pearlclutcher” should sound like. It was so shameless.

  • What he said is inexcusable, but it’s disturbing that someone’s career can effectively be ended because of something they wrote 14 years ago in a country where (as far as I know) it wasn’t illegal to say those things.

  • I wonder if any of the people that think this is a good thing were the same ones that were defending James Gunn for being fired for far worse tweets a decade prior.

    • If someone demonstrates growth and change they absolutely shouldn’t be punished for long prior mistakes. Gunn did demonstrate that growth and change before people drudged up his comments, if the same is true for Klein I absolutely agree he shouldn’t be fired.

      I do think the Gunn thing at least on the surface seems quite different though – he was making ill-advised jokes where the saying the most disgusting thing he could think of was the goal – they weren’t funny, and shouldn’t have been made, but in my understanding they didn’t really represent or underpin any of his actual beliefs so much as his sense of humour at the time. Not to mention he publicly apologised and distanced himself from his comments years before they were brought up again.

      Klein’s comments read differently as blatant expressions of racism and sexism that don’t seem to be jokes, but if his recent progressive politics and presumed change on a personal level are why they were dredged up then I doubt anyone of similarly progressive politics would agree with his termination. Gunn did say some gross stuff, Klein also said some gross stuff and initially with Gunn, and presumably with Klein too people respond to the new information and the specifics of what they said, regardless of how old it actually is.

      As pathetic a move as it was to try to get Gunn fired in response to not what he said in the past but in response to his political leanings at the time of the twitter mess was, it was effective and used the same momentum of outrage that lefties were using in the MeToo movement in a way that looked very similar to outsiders at first glance. Before understanding the context in which his comments were brought up and how old they were I privately had the same opinion on his comments and firing. That changed when I understood what had actually happened, why it haappened and what Gunn had done since making those comments. I don’t blame people for responding then as they might now. The tactic, however low, was – and obviously is – very effective.

  • This is an ever growing trend that is often even more disturbing than the comments those people made. Be wary of anything you have ever said throughout your entire life because people will judge you and find you guilty. Your punishment will be swift, your punishment will be harsh, you will be erased from anything and everything.

    It’s stories like this that make me glad I never use social media. Not that I hold any particularly radical views but given the dramas I’ve seen, the internet is very good at finding fault in even the most innocuous of statements.

    • Yeah, even if the thing you are doing is not illegal, do you really want your future employer to be able to see pictures of you at all the parties you have ever been to since you turned 13? Thats what the future will be for everyone growing up right now.

      Very glad I never signed up to Facebook/Twitter etc.

  • You know what they say, “you get what you deserve”. If he fully owned them, why did he only denounce them now? It’s not like he could have spontaneously forgotten he said all those things when he decided to adopt a new performative public persona, very unlikely.

    Maybe he should have been a better person, rather than allowing such hateful rhetoric to stay online for years.

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