All is not well in the highly lucrative and still blossoming esports industry with Turner “Tfue” Tenney, a Fortnite player and streamer for FaZe Clan, initiating legal action against the organization. A battle, in many ways, of public opinion and narrative construction, the highly publicized spat has drawn the attention of many in the gaming entertainment sphere.
Gaming is huge, it’s no mystery that there’s a lot of cash on the line for all parties involved. Even apart from the support a player might receive from their org, there’s no shortage of avenues in which that player might further leverage their influence. Winning big in competitions will net lots of prize money and attention, which can get channeled into streaming, which can then pave the way for brand name sponsorship deals and the like. Since inking his deal with FaZe back in April 2018, Tfue’s popularity and viewership has absolutely exploded. Now, a year later, the details of the relationship between org and player are being thrust into the public eye.
The 23 page legal document lists a few different kinds of complaints, and while I’m not a lawyer, it ultimately seems to boil down to the notion that the contract with FaZe restricts Tfue’s ability to exist as a competitive commodity in the marketplace. The complaint specifically notes a deal with HyperX that fell through, suggesting that the deal was killed because of a conflict with a competitor sponsor, and that the resulting action was to their client’s detriment. In addition to the aforementioned uploaded document, the initial contract between FaZe and Tfue has also surfaced. For appearances, in-game merch, and brand deals sourced by Tfue, the split is 50-50, and Tfue is entitled to 80% prize money won in competitions. But for brand deals that FaZe brings to the table, Tfue only gets 20%.
As the news broke and over the past week, FaZe Banks (an owner of FaZe Clan) has been extremely vocal about the situation — even going as far as to upload a 20 minute video in which he tells his side of the story. Among some other stuff, Banks claims that since signing Tfue in 2018, FaZe has “earned a grand total of… $60,000 from Tfue.” He adds that since the signing, FaZe has been working to renegotiate the contract because Tfue, as Banks puts its, quickly outgrew it.
With many industry names weighing in on the situation, it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out (be it in court or otherwise). At this point in time it would most certainly seem that Tfue’s earning power and influence far eclipse that which it was a year ago. Tfue probably wants to be able to pursue his own interests, compete in the marketplace, and possibly even found his own organization. FaZe probably wants to keep their superstar on the payroll and in-house, so to speak. Never a pretty sight when dirty laundry starts getting aired in public, a definitive answer now feels like just a matter of time.
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Image Source: Ricky Banks