New York Excelsior’s Move Towards Diverse OWL Roster Criticized As PR Move

New York Excelsior are reportedly planning to create an OWL roster made up entirely of people from marginalized genders for the 2023 season – and sources who are in proximity of this operation are not too happy about. According to a Dot Esports report, the move is being viewed by insiders as a PR exercise that could do more harm to the very people it aims to support as the consensus is that there is too much of a skill gap between the existing structures and those who are being pursued.

A disappointment 19th place finish in the Overwatch League regular season saw Excelsior part ways with their entire roster and staff earlier this month. Lim “Flora” Young-woo, Kim “Yaki” Jun-ki, Kim “Kellan” Min-jae, Kang “Gangnamjin” Nam-jin, Jeon “Ho1” Ho-won, and An “ANSOONJAE” Soon-jae were all shown the door, and are now free agents looking for teams while the NYXL has a clean slate.

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Image Credit | Excelsior

Underrepresented Genders Form A Small Talent Pool

Dot Esports reported that an anonymous source familiar with the NYXL’s plan called it “bad idea that was only set out for PR”, following a discussion about “how there aren’t enough people to make a [professional] roster ready for OWL.” The source did however praise the “positive” intent behind the idea, saying it was “great they were willing to look at talent from marginalized genders.”

But overall, the opinion is that a diversified roster will only cause more harm than good given the current talent pool, and lead to more hate diverted at those who come in to play at a level they are not regarded as being ready for.

“Tossing five players on a roster that’s more likely to lose than win will only make it harder for future aspiring players,” the source stated. “They will see all the hate NYXL players get and base their judgments if they want to keep playing off that.”

The players being looked at are currently part of the Calling All Heroes Challengers (CAH) Cup, which is an inclusivity program organized by Blizzard Entertainment and Overwatch League, representing OWL teams from marginalized genders. The finals of the tournament begin on December 11, but the tournament has already generated quite a bit of interest with the viewership on some of the qualifier matches nearing the numbers of some mainstream OWL games. According to reports, the NYXL has reached out to some of the top Overwatch players from the Calling All Heroes tournament with the intent to sign them on to the roster for next year.

Terrible Idea, Says Former Overwatch Player

Chassidy “Aramori” S, a competitive Overwatch player now turned esports coach, put up a Twitter thread calling it a “terrible idea”. She points out that there are “few OWL-level players who are also a marginalized gender”, and that they would struggle to compete in the pro tournaments. These players would also have to deal with an absurd amount of bias and hate, and Aramori stated, “These players will be under a microscope from day 1, thousands of eyes watching their every move and blaming them for being in the scene.”

Many, including Aramori believe that this is a PR stunt, because if NYXL truly wanted to support underrepresented genders, they would attach more importance to Calling All Heroes, a successful inclusivity program that’s already in place. Nurturing them in a safe, comfortable space is vastly preferable to tossing them into the deep-end of competitive OWL.

There’s no denying that CAH on its own is a fine initiative, and the fact that the games are already generating this much buzz shows that it’s a step in the right direction. However, just because this battle was won doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a war ahead – acceptance and inclusivity isn’t born overnight, and has to be tackled in the long-term.

Dragging players from marginalized communities, most of whom already live in fear of hatred and vitriol, into the spotlight doesn’t seem like the most responsible decision, and it might be a case that NYXL are trying to go too far too early. Some sources have alleged that NYXL have been reaching out to players below the level of OW Contenders due to the lacking talent pool – a recipe for disaster, seeing as it would only reinforce negative stereotypes among an already volatile fanbase.