Call of Duty League team owner is suing Activision Blizzard for $680 million

Rodriguez – whose company owned and operated the Duty League’s OpTic Texas team – and now retired OpTic player Seth “Scump” Abner is seeking $680 million in damages. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, the two allege that Activision Blizzard’s “unlawful 100 percent monopoly” over the league forced them into financially ruinous partnerships that risked being unable to compete in the league.

Before the advent of the Duty League, competitive Duty The tournaments were organized by independent third-party organizers and had an ‘open’ structure where any team could register and participate. However, when Activision Blizzard initiated the CDL in 2019, it changed this structure. Instead of offering multiple tournaments to teams throughout the year, there would be just one. Additionally, Activision limited the League to just 12 teams and required franchise fees of millions of dollars to participate.

The lawsuit provides insight into some of the terms and conditions that esports organizations had to agree to in order to participate in the League. While there are several reports highlighting that the cost of a spot in the League was between $20 and $25 million dollars, the lawsuit claims that teams had to pay $27.5 million for a franchise slot. The lawsuit also says that organizations were required to pass 50 percent of revenue from merchandise and ticket sales to Activision Blizzard and that the publisher had exclusive rights to sponsorships with its most lucrative advertising partners, such as energy drink companies.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Activision Blizzard prohibited teams and players from participating in tournaments outside the League and limited the ability of individual players to secure their own sponsorships.

One of the examples in the lawsuit described how players in 2020 had to sign an agreement committing them to League rules, without the opportunity to have the players’ council review it – at the risk of being kicked out of their team just days before the match put. The competition was about to begin.

Activision Blizzard has previously been accused of anti-competitive behavior regarding its esports competitions. In 2023, Activision settled a lawsuit with the US Department of Justice over the publisher’s Competitive Balance Tax. The load, which was present in the ruleset for both the Duty And Overwatch esports leagues, fine teams that paid players above a certain amount and split that fine among other participating teams. Although the rule was intended to be a type of salary cap seen in professional sports leagues, the DOJ claimed the rule would potentially depress player wages. The two leagues voluntarily dropped the rule in 2021 amid a DOJ investigation.

The new lawsuit builds on these claims. “Activision secured a 100 percent monopoly on the market for professionals Duty leagues and tournaments, used that market power to eliminate competition, forcing team owners and players to either exit the market entirely or accept draconian anti-competitive terms that only benefited Activision and its monopoly,” the company argues.

In an emailed statement to The edge, Activision Blizzard spokesperson Delaney Simmons wrote:

“Mr. Rodriguez (aka OpTic H3CZ) and Mr. Abner (aka Scump) demanded that Activision pay them tens of millions of dollars to avoid this worthless lawsuit, and when their demands weren’t met, they filed a complaint in. We will vigorously defend against these claims, which have no basis in fact or law. We are disappointed that these members of the esports community are coming forward with this suit, which is disruptive to team owners, players, fans and partners who spend so much time and energy invested in the success of the Call of Duty League.”

Update Tuesday February 20 8:10 PM EST: Added statement from Activision Blizzard.

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