Earlier this week, former employees of gaming content empire Rooster Teeth accused the company of underpaying them, overworking them, and using racist and homophobic language against them, among many other things. Now, Rooster Teeth addresses the allegations with a declaration that it would be cutting down on content…for just this week.
Rooster Teeth is a gaming-focused production company that’s been around since 2003. It’s racked up so many different types of allegations that in 2020, a community member created a spreadsheet just to organize sexual misconduct claims. The current deluge of allegations, which included descriptions of on-the-job injuries that workers say they were forced to leave untreated due to long hours, and a generally negligent HR team, were sparked by a statement longtime staffer Kdin Jenzen posted on Twitter this week that described eight years of crunch work, missing paychecks, and transphobia.
Initially, as more ex-employees accused Rooster Teeth of horrific treatment (actress Mica Burton said on Twitter that some Rooster Teeth employees “pushed me to try and take my own life”), the company stated simply on October 16 that in 2020 “many individuals at Rooster Teeth acknowledged personal responsibility for their actions both internally and externally.” Readers were not very impressed, so on October 18, Rooster Teeth came back with another lackluster Twitter statement.
“As a company, we sincerely apologize for the hateful and harmful behavior that occurred in the past,” the content group wrote. “We must do better. We are sorry.”
It continued to describe a series of management changes it made in 2020, including “an entirely new HR team” that did things like establish pay bands and adjust employee compensation to “meet market values.” The company also says, as of this past summer, it began paying employees for volunteering in DEI efforts and that, “We’ve been committed to change to avoid repetition and to remain accountable.” Rooster Teeth did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While Rooster Teeth fans and one former community leader expressed frustration with yet another statement that seemed to rather amorphously address and minimize the severity of allegations, a ten-minute clip from 2009 where Jenzen says the n-word multiple times during a rant about Family Guy bobbed up from the internet’s primordial soup.
Jenzen responded to the troubling video both on October 17 and in a longer statement posted on Twitter on October 18, writing, “I am fully aware that my past behavior and words were egregious, and to some, including myself, unforgivable.”
“I know I can’t take back those words I said all those years ago, I can only continue to be better,” Jenzen wrote. “I know all of this coming to light has detracted from the message and that I indeed was part of the problem for some time. I’m not that person anymore and I hope who I was doesn’t negate what RT has done.”
It’s unlikely that anything will be able to completely pull attention away from Rooster Teeth’s many painful-to-read accusations. As former production artist Patrick Rodriguez writes on Twitter, “Nothin like bonding through trauma.”
Update 10/20/22 9:55 a.m. ET: Rooster Teeth responded to our question about why it is taking a week off from programming with the following statement:
The mental health of our team, on-camera and off-camera, is vital for the kind of work we do. With systems in place for team support, we really do our best to take care of our people and regularly allow staff to take time off for their mental health. Teams have gathered to reflect on what’s been said and how they want to move ahead. Discussions have reverberated in the public forum which has made an impact on the team due to public threats. We choose to support them by allowing some time and space away from the current heightened environment.
We’re resuming programming slowly and declared the week to offer the team more time and manage expectations with the community.