Justice Department Investigating Overwatch League
The investigation is being headed up by the Civil Conduct Task Force, part of the department’s antitrust division. According to Dot Esports, regulators are looking into whether the Overwatch League’s secret soft cap on salaries violates the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act because the players aren’t unionized. While the investigation isn’t criminal, Dot Esports reports that “several former Overwatch League employees” have already been interviewed by Justice Department officials and that current Activision Blizzard employees have been instructed by the company to not “tamper with or destroy information regarding player salaries.”
“We have received an inquiry from the Department of Justice and are cooperating accordingly,” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told Dot Esports. “We deliver epic entertainment to our fans and support our players and teams in producing the most competitive and enjoyable esports leagues in the world.”
According to Dot Esports, the soft salary cap per team in 2020 was $1.6 million. For every dollar franchises like the San Francisco Shock, Shanghai Dragons, and London Spitfire paid over that amount, they had to pay an equal additional amount to the league to be redistributed back to the other teams.
This news comes in the middle of the Overwatch leagues 2021 season right before the playoffs. This news has already sparked debate over unionization in esports.