FaZe Clan is one of the biggest names in gaming. The group of professional influencers counts Drake, Pitbull, Snoop Dogg, and many others among its investors. Its CEO has described it as “the Dallas Cowboys meets Supreme meets MTV.” And currently its social media mentions are a full-on culture war as fans defend a screenshot of one of its members disavowing the company’s recent Pride Month support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Happy Pride Month!” FaZe Clan tweeted on June 1 alongside a rainbow-colored version of the group’s logo. “Sending love to our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and community.” Some fans immediately cheered the sentiment on, but plenty of others disparaged it, sharing sentiments that veered from “Another L from FaZe Clan” into more explicit homophobia.
Things went even more downhill after FaZe member Talal “Virus” Almalki remarked that he didn’t agree with the clan’s Pride statement. “Just to clarify that I don’t support any kind of LGBTQ or anything similar even if ‘FaZe’ does,” he wrote in a now-deleted quote-tweet. “I’m a Muslim.”
Almalki is a top-tier Call of Duty player with over a million subscribers on YouTube. He’s also FaZe’s first signing in Saudi Arabia, a country that has a long track record of human rights abuses and where being gay is criminalized.
There are of course plenty of self-identifying Muslims who support LGBTQ+ rights, just as there are many self-identifying Christians who do, but that didn’t stop lots of FaZe clans from latching onto screenshots of Almalki’s post to defend him.
“WTF is this?” one person referencing Almalki’s comment asked FaZe Clan’s account. “I don’t agree with how he went about it, but it’s his religion and we have to respect it just like people apart of the lgbtq community should be respected,” another replied.
This shouldn’t be shocking to anyone who follows gaming, including the messy fandoms cultivated by its biggest influencers. But it makes even the most mealy-mouthed show of support for things like Pride Month ring hollow when the influencers then stay silent on the antipathy generated and shared by their own fans.
Whether it’s ambient racism in the Twitch chat, or homophobia in the Twitter comments, silence can be interpreted as complicity. How else to explain why so many apparent FaZe Clan supporters were surprised by its Pride tweet to begin with?
Over a day later, there’s still no follow-up comment by either FaZe Clan or Almalki. Some FaZe fans are even accusing the former of censoring the latter. Almalki did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Kotaku. FaZe Clan declined to comment but did not contest the veracity of Almalki’s deleted tweet.
FaZe Clan is no stranger to controversy. A year ago it had to exile one member and suspend others when an alleged crypto scheme they were pushing went bust. But the group has always aspired to being more than just internet celebrities who are one bad day away from a heated gamer moment.
Last October, FaZe Clan announced its plan to ride the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) hype train all the way to becoming a $1 billion publicly-traded company. The deal was supposed to close in the first half of 2022. It is now June and FaZe Clan still isn’t trading on the NASDAQ, while SPAC hype is cratering. The group has until February 2023 to pull the deal off before it falls through and the money goes back to investors.