NHL 20 players have been concerned about an influx of racist names in the in-game community, with complaints over the past month regarding EA’s lack of reporting measures leaving plenty stumped.
Hockey has historically had a diversity problem, and this appears to be reflected in NHL 20. The month of May saw a number of posts on the official NHL 20 subreddit outlining concerns from the community around what has been dubbed as “rampant racism in online NHL”. One Reddit post called NHL 20’s community “one of the most racist” that a player had been a part of, citing examples of team names with overt racist references and racial slurs, especially against black people.
Additionally, a statement given by EA in April this year to the Vancouver Province contained a promise by the company to improve its filters used to detect discrimination within NHL 20. The Province also reported that the Vancouver Canucks hockey team had weighed in on the issue of racist language in the game, noting that it would “strongly condemn racist behavior in all forms, whether online in sport or society.”
However, it looks like those changes have yet to be implemented. Two days ago, another thread was made on the community subreddit, once again entreating EA to take steps to prevent this racism in online NHL. The EASHL mode, which allows NHL 20 players to team up with friends against other players, was identified as the main mode in which racist abuse is a particular problem. This abuse can range from racist team names to the names of individual players and even players dressed up as racist caricatures.
Prior to that, EA had put out a tweet mentioning a “long term commitment” to fighting racial injustice. Despite that, there remains no effective way for players to report offensive team names within NHL 20: players have to report any discriminatory or racist content that they encounter from another player to an EA Sports “Gamechanger,” who is a community volunteer and not staff at EA. While Gamechangers can make recommendations to the team who work on the EA Sports titles, there is no mandated throughline to ensure change once something has been reported by a Gamechanger.
The current content filter blocks slurs and swearing, but only in their most direct, unedited forms—players can be creative when it comes to team names with symbols and the like if they truly wish to express racist sentiments. Currently, the community’s frustrations appear to center around a lack of punishment for those who are populating NHL 20’s online play with racism.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson mentioned in his statement that the company is looking to drive “meaningful change through actions,” and has committed to pledging over $1 million to organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and others. EA will also double match any funds donated to similar organizations through their YourCause program during June. On the matter of online racism in titles like NHL 20, however, it remains to be seen what changes will be implemented going forward.
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