ESPN postpones broadcast of video game tournament in wake of mass shootings

Jack BaerWriter
Yahoo Sports

In the aftermath of last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, violent video games have become a popular target of blame for President Donald Trump and several conservative voices despite little evidence backing up the supposed connection between such games and gun violence.

Apparently, ESPN has been listening.

According to a report from esports journalist Rod Breslau and confirmed by Bloomberg, ESPN has quietly delayed a broadcast of an “Apex Legends” tournament previously scheduled for Aug. 10 in response to the mass shootings.

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The taped segments will now be aired months later across Oct. 6, 15 and 27 according to a source, which also confirmed the decision was made out of respect for the shooting victims and anyone else who was impacted.

The tournament will still be available on ESPN’s digital channels and app this weekend, though it appears the tournament will no longer be aired on ABC, which had been reportedly planned.

Trump and Republicans point to video games after mass shootings

“Apex Legends” is one of many games that feature guns as a primary gameplay mechanic, and among the most popular examples of the “Battle Royale” genre that has dominated the industry in the last few years.

Violent video games were among the many factors Trump pointed to on Monday when addressing the nation about the mass shootings:

We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately. Cultural change is hard, but each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. That’s what we have to do.

Trumps’ remark echoed several Republican leaders who have tied such video games to mass shootings, a group that includes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick.

With its decision to inch away from video games directly after the mass shootings, it appears ESPN also buys the idea, or is at least worried that enough people subscribe to it that airing the tournament would be received in bad taste.

The sports giant has made a concerted effort to avoid political discussion in the last year. This decision could be another example of that, even though delaying the broadcast itself could also be seen as a political act given that it’s based on what has become a Republican talking point.

ESPN will wait until October to air an Apex Legends tournament. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ESPN will wait until October to air an Apex Legends tournament. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Video game enthusiasts, gun control advocates and independent researchers have blasted the argument of video games as a risk factor, pointing to studies that have found no links between video games and violence and calling the idea a distraction from the gun control debate. That assertion is backed up by the fact that Japan, the world leader in per-capita video game spending, had just three gun deaths in 2017. Not three mass shootings or three gun deaths per week. Three gun deaths total.

While Japan has video games, mental health issues and so many other factors that have been tied to mass shootings by some in the U.S., one thing it does not have is easy access to firearms.

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