EA Reportedly Tells Employees It Won't Speak Out On Abortion Rights
The publisher has previously addressed other political issues.
After recently leaked documents signaled the United States Supreme Court's plans to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision this summer, several game publishers and developers have spoken out in support of reproductive rights. However, Electronic Arts may not be joining the chorus.
According to a report by Kotaku, EA held a company town hall meeting on May 24 to address the issue, telling employees that Electronic Arts is an "inclusive company" and thus must be inclusive of all points of view on the issue of reproductive and transgender rights. Despite many employees reportedly expressing outrage and a deep desire for their employer to openly support the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community, EA chief people officer Mala Singh stated, “These things are hard and they’re personal and we all have our own perspectives and sometimes we won’t speak, and that will be upsetting and I understand that, we really do.”
Singh went on to explain that EA only speaks out on social issues when doing so will "actually have a positive impact." This statement has left both employees and gamers frustrated, as many fail to see how speaking up in support of reproductive and transgender rights would fail to have a positive impact.
Many have pointed to the fact that EA publicly supported the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's 2020 murder, with the popular games publisher even donating $1 million to organizations fighting racial injustice. Back in March, EA joined forces with 64 other companies--from Apple to Gearbox--to sponsor an ad in the Dallas Morning News that condemned anti-trans legislation in Texas, though EA never spoke publicly about the ad on any platform. Electronic Arts has also tweeted in support of Ukraine, condemning Russia's invasion and calling for an end to Russian violence against Ukrainian civilians. EA went as far as banning Russian and Belarusian teams from all EA esports competitions--most notably the Apex Legends Global Series and EA Sports FIFA 22 Global Series.
EA confirmed to Kotaku that it is currently looking into ways to follow Microsoft's lead and provide out-of-state travel to any employees in need of an abortion who live in a state where it is made illegal.
EA is also providing its employees with another form of support, which the company calls "healing circles." These are effectively in-house group therapy sessions offered through EA's healthcare plan. Healing circles can cover a number of issues, and are meant to help employees process difficult experiences--from mass shootings to attacks on human rights--in a group of their peers. But it's unclear what further steps EA may take to assist the women and LGBTQ+ persons who will be affected by anti-choice and anti-trans legislation.
According to the transcript of the town hall meeting obtained by Kotaku, Singh ended the town hall meeting with some words of comfort for EA's employees--and its investors:
“But please know that every single time one of these things comes up we really put a great amount of care and thought into it, and consider multiple perspectives and then decide what’s in the best interest of EA and the various communities of stakeholders we have, including our people, our players, our fans and stakeholders, [and] our shareholders.”
EA is not the only game company to draw the ire of employees for its handling of ongoing political issues. In mid-May, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan issued a company-wide email in which he urged employees to "respect differences of opinion among everyone in our internal and external communities." This was followed by five paragraphs about his cats' birthday party, hoping to "inspire everyone to be mindful of having balance that can help ease the stress of uncertain world events."
A week later, Sony-owned Insomniac Games donated $50,000 to the pro-choice Women's Reproductive Rights Assistance Project. This donation was matched by another $50,000 from Sony via its PlayStation Cares program, which matches charitable donations made by Sony employees. But according to The Washington Post, Sony reportedly demanded that Insomniac employees keep quiet about Sony's donation to the cause. Despite Ryan's comments and the company's demand that Insomniac stay silent, Sony has agreed to match all donations to charitable organizations, as long as they are made by Sony employees through the PlayStation Cares program.
Several companies have publicly expressed support for reproductive rights, including Destiny-maker Bungie, Guild Wars developer ArenaNet, Psychonauts developer Double Fine, and Deck Nine, the developer behind several entries in the Life is Strange game series.
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