- Professional gamer Turner “Tfue” Tenney is suing his former team, FaZe Clan over a contract that he calls “oppressive and predatory.”
- Tenney has won more than $US500,000 playing “Fortnite” in tournaments, and is one of the most popular players in the world. He has more than 10 million subscribers on YouTube, and another six million followers on Twitch.
- The lawsuit alleges that Tenney’s contract allowed FaZe Clan to retain up to 80 per cent of Tenney’s earnings from sponsored advertisements, and that it prevented him from signing valuable deals with potential sponsors.
- Ricky Banks, the owner of FaZe Clan, said the organisation has made just $US60,000 off its partnership with Tenney since April 2018 and claimed that Tenney declined to re-negotiate the terms of his contract prior to litigation.
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Turner “Tfue” Tenney, one of the top professional gamers in the world, is suing his team, FaZe Clan, over claims of unfair business practices and breach of contract.
In a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Tenney alleges that FaZe Clan retained 80% of the revenue generated from his sponsored videos and advertisement deals, as well as 50% of the revenue generated by his in-person appearances.
“Faze Clan’s goal is essentially to ‘own’ Tenney and other content creators/streamers and professional gamers,” the lawsuit alleges. “FaZe Clan, which is not a licensed talent agency, exploits young artists like Tenney through oppressive and predatory long-term contracts whereby FaZe Clan essentially ‘owns’ the artist and the artist’s career.”
Tenney, 21, has won more than $US500,000 playing in competitive “Fortnite” tournaments, and boasts more than 10 million subscribers on YouTube. He’s the third-most popular gamer on Twitch with six million followers, trailing only Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Michael “shroud” Grzesiek. Like other professional gamers, Tenney relies on sponsorship deals, paid advertisements, and viewer subscriptions and donations to generate income when he’s not competing.
FaZe Clan manages a number of popular YouTube personalities and esports teams across multiple games.
Tenny signed a six-month contract with FaZe Clan in April 2018, which was later extended to a 36-month agreement. Tenney’s YouTube channel had approximately 150,000 subscribers in May 2018, but that number has grown more than 10 million in the last year, with the help of promotion from FaZe Clan.
However, the lawsuit requests that Tenney be released from his contract, and for financial restitution from FaZe Clan.
Business Insider has reached out to both Turner “Tfue” Tenney and FaZe Clan for further comment.
Here’s why the two sides are at odds, and why other YouTubers are starting to take notice.
Tenney’s lawsuit accuses FaZe Clan of operating as an unlicensed talent agency.
Tenney’s lawsuit repeatedly accuses FaZe Clan of operating as an unlicensed talent agency, in violation of California law.
The suit claims that Tenney’s contract restricted him to sponsorship deals that were negotiated by FaZe Clan, but alleges that the organisation did not have the legal standing to negotiate on an artist’s behalf. Tenney’s lawsuit claims that FaZe Clan’s contract was illegal and prevented him from exploring more valuable partnerships than the ones FaZe Clan negotiated for him.
Tenney claims that he was pressured to perform dangerous stunts and drank while underage at FaZe Clan’s “Clout House.”
Tenney also claims in the lawsuit that the organisation pressured him to live in a house in Hollywood Hills with fellow YouTubers. Members of FaZe Clan referred to the shared home as “The Clout House.”
Tenny alleges that FaZe Clan threw multiple parties at the house, where they provided alcohol to underage players – including Tenney, who was 20 years old at the time, he said.
He also alleges in the lawsuit that he was encouraged to participate in dangerous stunts with other players for YouTube videos.
In one such video, Tenney was hit by a car while skateboarding on camera.
The lawsuit says FaZe Clan wants to “own” Tenney and other content creators. FaZe Clan claims that it’s only made $US60,000 from its contract with Tenney.
FaZe Clan issued a statement on Twitter refuting Tenney’s accusations, and claiming that the organisation has only made $US60,000 off its partnership with Tenney. While FaZe Clan claimed a portion of his earnings from sponsor agreements, the organisation said Tenney kept all of his tournament winnings from playing “Fortnite,” as well as the income generated by his personal YouTube and Twitch channels, which are among the most popular on both platforms.
FaZe Clan’s response to today’s press article regarding Tfue: pic.twitter.com/eVdRVMnRpl
— FaZe Clan (@FaZeClan) May 20, 2019
The owner of FaZe Clan addressed Tenney’s claims in a YouTube video that had more than 2 million views in less than a day.
In a video addressing the situation, FaZe Clan owner Ricky Banks said that the lawsuit intentionally misrepresents Tenney’s relationship with FaZe Clan, and claimed that it’s intended to harm the organisation’s brand. Banks said he had considered Tenney a close friend and was completely blindsided by the lawsuit. Banks said that he actually had Tenney’s handle “Tfue” tattooed on his thigh. Banks said that Tenney declined to renegotiate his contract, and chose litigation rather than solving the problem “offline.”
Banks also said that Tenney was actually one of the primary instigators of FaZe Clan’s stunts, and that he was not pressured to participate. He referenced separate videos in which Tenney allegedly chose to drink while underage during a party at his girlfriend’s home, and another in which Tenney willingly jumped off the Hollywood Reservoir and encouraged others to do so.
Other YouTubers have been eager to weigh in on the controversy, which raises questions about the business relationships between online influencers and their management teams.
The lawsuit has raised questions about how esports organisations structure their player contracts. and whether they should be held to the same standards as traditional talent agencies.
A number of popular online personalities have shared their thoughts on the lawsuit with varying levels of scepticism surrounding the situation. Top Twitch streamer Herschel “Dr. Disrespect” Beahm criticised the details of the FaZe Clan contract and offered to give Tenney advice.
“It looks like he’s taking the right approach, he’s got some knowledgable people behind him and they’re going to push the point,” Beahm said in a video.
Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the most popular gamer on Twitch, was sceptical of Tenney being pressured to do stunts and drink unwillingly, but also said the terms of FaZe Clan’s contract seemed extreme.
“Do not sign anything over one year, unless you’re like, solid, or it’s a multi-million dollar deal,” Blevins said on his own channel. “Anything over a year is a little ridiculous.”
As an emerging industry, the world of esports and online influencers is largely unregulated, leaving the young people at the center of the industry to negotiate the terms of their career.
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