Video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA Games) has initiated a process of removing Russian national teams and all other Russian teams from their sports games, starting with FIFA 22, as an expression of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. In fact, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, called on all game-development companies and e-sport platforms to block Russian and Belarusian accounts, cancel tournaments, and ban players — which might be illegal, but we’ll get to that later.
As reported by The Verge, Electronic Arts has announced that it’s in the process of removing Russian sports teams and the country’s professional clubs from some of its most prominent sports gaming titles. Those titles include NHL22, FIFA22, FIFA Online, and FIFA Mobile video games. Though the specific date of their removal hasn’t been disclosed, the publisher has stated that the process of their removal is underway. This decision was made in line with FIFA, UEFA, and IIHF’s decisions to ban Russia from all competitions until further notice. It’s worth noting that these decisions only pertain to Russian and Belarusian teams and not individual players’ presence in other teams and sports in general.
By removing Russian and Belarussian teams from their games, Electronic Arts and its sports games division, EA Sports, express their solidarity with the Ukrainian people, calling for peace and an end to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Electronic Arts joined other tech companies currently restricting its services to Russia, including Apple, Facebook, and YouTube, who are either altering or completely removing their services in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Admittedly, this isn’t the first time a gaming company is changing or altering the content of its games due to real-world events. For example, Activision Blizzard combed through all of their releases removing all the names of game characters that were in any way related to allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. In the case of Electronic Arts, however, the company was forced to change the offensive name of the now- Washington Commanders in current Madden games, and last year, it removed Jon Gruden, the Las Vegas Raiders coach, following an email scandal.
With that said, Electronic Arts’ decision seems like a reasonable one; Mikhailo Fedorov’s request is not so well-founded. Calling upon all game-development companies and e-sports platforms to sanction Russia and Belarussia by restricting access to their services and temporarily suspending their accounts seems reasonable. These restrictions and suspensions can later be lifted once the ongoing conflicts resolve. However, permanently banning or restricting individuals from sports and e-sports events on account of being Russian or Belarusian isn’t legal. In fact, it’s outright illegal and conflicts with basic human rights.
In conclusion, Electronic Arts announced the removal of Russian and Belarussian sports teams from their games and said nothing about restricting Russian- and Belarusian-based gamers. But, of course, such decisions wouldn’t be economically viable, and if recent history has taught us one thing, that is that no one should ever suspect Electronic Arts’ aggressive monetization practices. So, it would seem that the aforementioned solidarity extends only for as long as it doesn’t burn a hole in the company’s pocket.