New Efforts Emerge to Unionize Esports Players

Unions and player associations are nothing new in the world of traditional sports, but they are just beginning to emerge for esports players. Two new efforts focused on Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is among the first grass-roots, player-driven initiatives that have gained traction.

Led by Overwatch player-turned-coach Thomas Kerbusch, along with the help of sports labor attorney Ellen Zavian, the Overwatch Players Association is poised to become the first players union in the industry. According to Zavian, the OPA will be modeled after major North American sports unions including the NFL and MBL Players Associations.

Unions provide players with leverage. They empower players through collective bargaining to negotiate better terms, employment conditions, and fair pay. Unions have proven essential to protecting young adult athletes from being taken advantage of, and esports are no exception.

The second effort is led by Scott Smith, a former team owner who has gained recognition in the CS:GO community for his work as an esports personality in broadcasting. Smith teamed up with esports attorney Michael Doi to establish the Counter-Strike Professional Players Association or CSPPA.

Smith says he has gathered roughly 70 signatures for his new association and hopes to collect another 225 globally. For now, players are signing “membership letters” and not the “authorization cards” required to be recognized as a union member under United States law.

Smith says that even before taking his association to an official level he is getting questions from tournament organizers about working conditions and what players want.

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