Call of Duty removes Twitch streamer Nickmercs’ character skin over bigoted comments

Nickmercs / Call of Duty

Popular shooter game Call of Duty has removed the character skin of Nickmercs from its in-game shop following an anti-LGBTQ+ tweet from the US Twitch streamer and YouTuber.

Nickmercs – real name Nicholas Kolcheff – is a co-owner of Esports organisation FaZe Clan and best-known for playing Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite Battle Royale and Apex Legends.

The military-based game’s developer, Activision, confirmed via Twitter that it had removed the Nickmercs bundle from sale because of his reply to a tweet about anti-LGBTQ+ protesters attacking queer people and allies outside a school board meeting in Glendale, California.

The meeting, which took place on Tuesday (6 June), concerned whether the Glendale Unified School District would be recognising June as Pride Month. The motion was unanimously passed despite brutal scenes outside, where one man was filmed punching an LGBTQ+ activist in the head.

Reports on social media suggested that a number of the anti-LGBTQ+ protesters were members of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys.

Overwatch League host Chris Puckett reposted a video of the violent disorder on Wednesday (7 June), writing: “This happened 4 blocks from my Overwatch League apartment. Americans are in a sad place right now. Let people love who they love and live your own life.”

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Kolcheff replied: “They should leave little children alone. That’s the real issue.”

Kolcheff’s comments play into the anti-LGBTQ+ conspiracy theory that queer people are inherently a danger to children, a right-wing talking point that has been amplified in recent months by bigoted politicians and pundits. 

Thankfully, Puckett eloquently replied with: “Who is this they and what terrible act is everyone afraid of? I think/hope the goal of most of ‘them’ is to reduce child suicides. This is done through acceptance and removing the stigma of feeling/being different.

“As a dad I’m struggling to see the harm. Gay doesn’t = pedo.”

Activision added a ‘skin’ of Kolcheff  that players can buy for their characters to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Warzone in May. 

Kolcheff was the first pro gamer to become a playable character in the game, but Call of Duty confirmed on Friday that his bundle had been stripped from the in-game store and that the Call of Duty franchise would be standing with the LGBTQ+ community and celebrating Pride Month. 

The military-based game’s official Twitter account posted: “Due to recent events, we have removed the ‘NICKMERCS Operator’ bundle from the Modern Warfare II and Warzone store. 

“We are focused on celebrating PRIDE with our employees and our community.”

Kolcheff has been supported by high-profile Call of Duty player Dr Disrespect, who has uninstalled the game in a recent YouTube broadcast, and said he will not “consider” playing again unless the developer “publicly apologises” to Kolcheff or “reinstates his bundle”. 

Video game review and news site The Gamer responded to the controversy by calling Kolcheff an “embarrassment to the Apex Legends community” and questioned: “How many LGBT pros will be put off from competing or coming out by the views of the game’s biggest stars?”

Kolcheff has previously faced criticism for hosting a $300,000 antivax party after TwitchCon announced its vaccine requirements and mask mandate for its October 2022 event. His alternative offered no safety measures.

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