Professional Tekken player Tanukana has been booted from Osaka-based esports team Cyclops Athlete Gaming for remarks she made in a livestream.
Cyclops Athlete Gaming competes in first-person shooters like PUBG, Call of Duty, and Rainbow Six Siege as well as fighting games like Tekken. She has been featured in the mainstream Japanese press, including this clip from newspaper Kobe Shimbun. She was, as Kotaku’s Ian Walker previously wrote, a rising star.
In a February 15 stream, Tanukana said, “Men who are under 170 cm (5 ft 6.9 in) don’t have human rights.” She added they should look into getting bone-lengthening surgery. (According to Healthline, the average height for men in Japan is 170.8 cm or 5 ft 7.2 in. or 5 ft 7.2 in.)
In Japanese, the word for human rights is jinken (人権). But in gaming parlance, jinken refers to an item or character that all players need to have. On Twitter, a debate has ensued over whether the slang led to Tanukana’s remark.
Regardless, the remark caused controversy online in Japan and was splashed all over Yahoo! News. In a now-deleted tweet, Tanukana wrote, “It was pointed out to my that my stream contained hate speech.” She added that this was not her intention and that she poorly expressed her love of tall people. She did apologise, but it was hardly the kind of formal apology that’s become expected in Japan.
Cyclops also issued an apology, writing, “We’ve confirmed that on February 15, Tanukana, who is a member of Cyclops Athlete Gaming, made an improper remark on a stream. Regarding this matter, we would like to offer a deep apology to the fans, sponsors, and everyone else who supports us.”
And Tanukana apologised once again with a more formal tweet that addressed fans and the team’s sponsor, Red Bull. “I have deep remorse for this statement, which is unbecoming of a pro esports athlete and a member of society,” wrote Tanukana.
All this happened against a backdrop in which “pro gamer” has been defined in Japan and where there are licenses to game professional. According to the Japan Esports Union, one of the main points that define a pro gamer is “self-awareness of being a professional.” This stipulation seems to have been added so that esports pros are taken seriously in Japan.
But really, it’s simpler than that. Tanukana’s Cyclops page had a laundry list of sponsors that included Alienware and Red Bull. In the wake of the controversy, all the sponsors were scrubbed from her page.
Sponsors don’t want controversy, even if things seem blown out of proportion. Teams need sponsors. It appears that something — or someone — had to give, and that’s exactly what happened. Cyclops later announced it had terminated Tanukana’s contract.