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 Evolve  community manager out of a job after Twitter remark
Evolve community manager out of a job after Twitter remark
May 1, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

Turtle Rock Studios employee Josh Olin appears to have left the company today due to a controversial statement he posted to his personal Twitter account yesterday.

Olin, who most recently served as community manager for Turtle Rock Studios' upcoming game Evolve, expressed a self-admitted "unpopular opinion" yesterday about the controversy surrounding the NBA commissioner's recent decision to ban L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life.

Today, Turtle Rock Studios issued a formal apology for his remarks via its official Twitter account. The apology refers to Olin as the studio's "former community manager," suggesting he either left the studio or was asked to leave shortly after publishing those remarks. If that's true, he's not the first person to lose a job in the industry for voicing controversial opinions on Twitter.

Gamasutra has reached out to Turtle Rock Studios and Olin for further details on the matter.

Update: Olin has given a statement to Game Informer and other outlets about his situation that seems to confirm that he lost his job due to his remarks on Twitter. The full statement reads as follows:

"Anyone who follows me knows my tweets were not in support of Sterling's actions. Rather, they were promoting three core tenets I believe in: 1) The harm sensational media presents to society. 2) The importance and sanctity of your privacy within your own home. And 3) The right to be whatever you want to be as an American, as long as it isn't hurting anyone else. That last point not to be confused with condoning Sterling's actions, which I don't."

"That said, it's disappointing to see that a select few in Turtle Rock and 2K Games management bought into this hysteria without even having a conversation with me - or even thoroughly reviewing the context of the tweets themselves. Ironically, it serves as a great example of why I hold tenet #1 above so close to heart. That said, everyone should totally still buy Evolve. The guys and gals making that game know their ***, and are making it good."

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John McMahon
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I agree with his statement. If a man or woman wants to voice their own unpopular views at home, then that is okay. Their home is a venue which they own the property and should feel safe.

However, when the public or his employees learn of his views towards them or their friends/family, then they too have the right to react to that knowledge.

I agree, whoever took that video/audio and made it public should be held accountable. But I don't know the details. Was it filmed secretly like Romney's video or was it a recording Sterling knew was taking place?

G Irish
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The woman claims that Sterling asked her to record their conversations because he was forgetful.

Shea Rutsatz
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Yeah, this one in particular may have been illegal, but apparently he asked to have stuff recorded.

Jonathan Jennings
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Heck I agree with his statement, as an american Sterling did have the right to be a bigot , just like I have the right to dislike Sterling due to his comments and not support nay businesses he is involved with .

I do think though that as a representative of the NBA though and as a leader / contributor on one of the current most popular teams in the league, he had the right to be fired . The right to freedom of speech is a federally observed right but let any one of us call our boss an asshole to their face ( and not have boss who appreciates that humor) and watch us be fired .

Anyway that's all besides the point , I feel sorry for the guy who got fired , I don't think you should be fired for your opinion ... especially when he didn't say anything negative or racist himself , he just expressed his thoughts and got canned for it. how shitty .......

Robert Carter
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I agree on all accounts. Sterling should have been punished YEARS ago for his treatment and handling of Magic Johnson, which I believe was very public as opposed to his horrible comments that had to be snooped. Im actually upset with the commissioner who knew full well back then (and likely before) exactly who sterling was but didnt care until the public came crying about this new instance. This shows, in my opinion, a lack of ethics on the commissioners part.

But, as you say, all the community manager said was along the lines of "I disagree with what you say, but will defend your right to say it" and got canned. That kind of knee-jerk reaction is disheartening.

Hope you are doing well Jonathan, I miss the time working with you on projects at school :)

Jonathan Jennings
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I'm doing pretty fine Robert I hope you're doing great too and yeah it was always fun working with you or hearing your stories during class as well ...even though I probably told more stories in our classes than anyone lol .

Dane MacMahon
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Hit the nail on the head.

I am guessing Turtle Rock fired him for brewing up controversy related to their company though, rather than for what he said. Right or wrong (wrong in my opinion) I am sure many internet warriors were tweeting and emailing Turtle Rock about their "racist" community manager, and Turtle Rock had to respond. It's the job of the community manager to put out fires, or at least manage them as best they can, not to start fires.

Jay N
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Though everyone deserves another chance, Turtle Rock Studios were right to dump Olin. Someone who puts his own agenda before the security of his employer like that should expect nothing more – as a public person, he should cease displays which may in any way bring negative attention to the company he works for.

Alternate Procellous
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There are two trends that I find disturbing: that employers are firing employees for exercising their first amendment right to express personal beliefs and that so many people think they owe their employer more than 40 hours of honest work a week.

Most employers have no loyalty to their employees. Always approach a job as though you are consulting with your employer, not becoming a part of the family. It's certainly a mutually beneficial arrangement and you should always do the best job you can, but never kid yourself about the fact that you could be let go if it were financially beneficial for your employer to do so.

There are many of us who've been laid off after drinking the kool-aid and working 80+ hours a week. Do you know who benefits most in that situation? The answer: some executive who runs the company you used to work for. I disagree with the notion that Olin shouldn't put "his own agenda before the security of his employer." Most employers aren't putting your security high on their list of priorities.

Jay N
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Disagreeing with my view is certainly your right. Just like it's Olin's right to express his opinions about whatever he wants to, wherever he's able to. This right has not been denied to him, but the first amendment regulates what the government can do to censor him, not what repercussions his employer may take in cases like this. There are always consequences, and Olin must have known what could come from this.

If given a choice between a product that's associated with controversy and one which isn't, which one do you as a consumer go for? I know which one I'd go for, and it's not like the market isn't saturated enough as it is.

If Olin wants to fight Turtle Rock Studios in the courts, he's naturally welcome to try, but he'll probably only bring even more negative publicity to both parties. Besides, it seems like he left on his own accord, even if it was a Hobson's choice, which would mean his case is weak.

As to your other trend, I agree. It's all too easy to get feelings of familiarity in a company, only to be «routinely terminated» at the end of a project. Companies run destructive rounds of crunch and unpaid overtime, year after year, for decades now, and we continue to let them. But that's another debate.

Josh Charles
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"Disagreeing with my view is certainly your right. Just like it's Olin's right to express his opinions about whatever he wants to, wherever he's able to. This right has not been denied to him, but the first amendment regulates what the government can do to censor him, not what repercussions his employer may take in cases like this. There are always consequences, and Olin must have known what could come from this."

^ This sums it up. The right to free speech pertains to individuals as private citizens in relation to the government. By and large, "free speech" ends as soon as one walks into the door of their employer. Democracy doesn't exist in the work force -- dictatorships do. Employers can do what they want, when they want, with few exceptions, most of which are hard to prove anyway.

In this case, the employer has every right to terminate Olin's employment if they deem his behavior reflects poorly on their business. That seems to have played out here. It is what it is and is thus the power that we've allowed the management at companies to hold over their employees.

Amir Barak
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Here's a little experiment for you to conduct;
Stand in front of the building where you work after hours and tell everyone that comes out how much the company you work for sucks and how much you think abolishing slavery was a dick move and not to mention women are clearly inferior to yourself and other men and should never have been given the right to vote. Now, here's the fun part, what happens next?

Robert Schmidt
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The first amendment exists to protect all speech not just popular speech. If anything we need to be more vigilant in protecting one's right to say unpopular things as few are going to try and stop someone from saying something they agree with. The problem is, the vast majority of the general population is fundamentally irrational and are incapable of simple reasoning such as; protecting one's right to speak freely is not the same as agreeing with what that person is saying. Turtle Rock Studios cannot even give the appearance of ambiguity about their position on Sterling's comments and so they "overreacted" to satisfy reactionaries in the general public. Unfortunately, the first amendment only protects Olin from retaliation from the State, not from his employer.

I agree that Sterling had a right to say what he wanted to say in the privacy of his own own home BUT once those words became public the NBA had a right to distance itself from him, even though Sterling did not directly publish his comments himself. That isn't an infringement on his right to free speech. Once again, it wasn't the State depriving Sterling of his rights, it was a corporation exercising its contractual rights. Very different thing.

Michael Joseph
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"Unfortunately, the first amendment only protects Olin from retaliation from the State, not from his employer."

Indeed. Seems a significant hole in that "right." And how many people will avoid adding comments to this article because of the response by Mr. Orlin's employer? The people who's paychecks enable us to put food on the table have way more power over our daily lives than the government.

Robert Schmidt
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That is the world we live in and it is only going to get worse. The US is currently a corporate run plutocracy. Corporations dictate domestic and foreign policy and vet suitable candidates for election. American elections are nothing more than a puppet show. And what has happened in the US is playing out all over the world. Corporations are not limited by law like governments are. It is like the millennia long struggle for human rights has finally succeeded so those in power created new institutions that are not constrained by those protections. A case in point is slavery. As western nations were compelled to end slavery, corporations shifted their manufacturing to countries that still allowed it. Citizens were no longer permitted to have slaves but there was no ban on corporations using slaves.

Michael Joseph
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Sterling hasn't been deprived of any right except privacy. He can still say whatever he wants. He can still be a bigot all he wants. But "rights" are just words on paper so there's no guarantee any of them will be respected or upheld, or that we'll be compensated or made whole if rights are violated. With this being the case, Sterling MUST take some responsibility for the aftermath of his comments being made public because he made them knowing that there was no guarantee his privacy would be protected.

People who are prone to making disrespectful and offensive comments tend to do so whenever and wherever they feel comfortable. These comments are never limited to the "privacy of one's own home."

So when people like Sterling's own hatred, stupidity and hubris finally comes back to bite them in the rear, I say "it took you long enough!"

Mikhail Mukin
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I don't know (or care) who Sterling is or what he said. But if somebody said that people are free to say whatever they want and got fired for expressing this opinion - it is unacceptable. I hope something else is going on, as otherwise I have to think that some management people at Turtle Rock (a respected developer - in my book) are unable to follow simple logic... and so likely should not have jobs in the industry that requires thinking.

Ron Dippold
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He's free to say whatever he wants. And Turtle Rock's free to fire him. It all works out! Freedom for all!

Also: he has 142K followers on his 'private' account. At least 140K of those were following because of his job. That cuts both ways.

Terry Matthes
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The fact they didn't talk to him was insane! What kind of HR do they have there? Yikes.

Jay N
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This I completely agree with. It's very unprofessional of them. He was still their employee, after all, and should have been given a chance to redeem himself, or possibly distance himself from the tweet.

Then again, all HR-people I've ever come across have been psycho, so who knows what kicks they get out of this?

Jody Hicks
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Charles Forbin
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This country is getting sick. It's the obvious stuff now, but just you wait. There's ideologues out there who will parse your every word and utterance, looking for hidden meanings, and they will always find them. Just you wait and see where this goes if you don't take a stand now.

Cordero W
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Ironic that the freedom of the internet led to the restriction of freedom.

Olin did not say that he agreed with Sterling's statements. He merely said he agreed with the man having the ability to speak in his home whatever he wants. The subject was taken out of context and he lost his job over some PR stuff.

Btw, who the heck is Turtle Rock anyway? I doubt millions of people are going to react to a small company like that. This is just PR.

Joseph Mirabello
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Uh...they're the guys who made Left 4 Dead. They're only a new name to folks because they'd been in and out from under Valve's wing over the years, but I dunno if you could call them a "new" studio. If trade show booth investments are anything to go by, the marketing push behind Evolve seems like it'll be on par with TitanFall's.

Simon Ludgate
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"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law."

Freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility for breaking the law (eg: hate speech, including racial or ethnic hatred).

This includes the responsibility of representing the opinions of an organization one has willingly joined or facing expulsion from that organization.

William Collins
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That just seems so contradictory to me. The one distinguishing factor between "hate" speech and freedom of speech is that one type offends more people.

You either have the right to say whatever you want or you don't. Defining something as "hate" speech and making a law against it would be to criminalize thought and that's a dangerous precedent to set, imo.

Amanda Lee Matthews
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I agree with him.

And I think things have gotten ridiculous. If your opinion - expressed outside of your job - does not affect your job performance, you shouldn't be fired for it. I know the idea is that it reflects badly on the company, and might lose them customers, but come on - the world has changed. No one is going to stop being a fan of a sports team because one owner is a bigot, and no one is going to stop buying video games because one employee of the company supports free speech. In fact I'm more likely to boycott Turtle Rock Studios for firing this guy - not that I'd ever heard of them before.

Josh Charles
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"If your opinion - expressed outside of your job - does not affect your job performance, you shouldn't be fired for it."

- Except if the company or the employee can terminate their employment at any time (barring provable cases of discrimination). If this individual has no legal contract between himself and the employer stating that he can't be fired for expressing his opinion as long as that opinion does not affect his job performance (or the performance of others), then, yeah, they can fire him.

I'm not saying I agree with what's taken place here. I'm simply pointing out that the freedom of speech that we as Americans like to talk about so much is really just freedom of speech from censorship from the government, not freedom from consequence of said speech by other citizens and definitely not freedom from consequence of said speech by one's employer. When it comes to business, democracy ends at the door - for better or worse.

Amir Barak
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What happens when your jobs is expressing opinions. And more so, when your job is expressing popular opinions in order to generate positive public relations to your employer?
You could easily argue that expressing this opinion (broadcast over a vast public network) harmed Turtle Rock's reputation thus severely impacting [negatively] Olin's work performance.

Are you really saying you have no problems boycotting a company for firing someone who calls racist bigot assholes "victims" of society?

"because one employee of the company supports free speech."
Yeah, too bad the free speech he's supporting is racist and bigoted... Are you opposed to teaching tolerance? Are you opposed to educating kids the simple fact that we all belong to the same race?

I bet you really can't stand people like Martin Luther King or Elizabeth Cady, trying to censor people's freedom of speech...

Adam Bishop
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It is of course literally true that your right to free speech only means that the *government* can't censor you, not that your employer can't. But I find the idea that all speech that a person makes at any time must be approved by their employer to be incredibly disturbing and insidious. Employers should not have the ability to sanction employees for remarks made away from the job that do not directly impact their work. Workers do not belong to the companies that employ them.

Josh Charles
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Totally agree. It's unfortunate but I don't see that changing anytime soon. In the meantime, what are we supposed to do?

Shea Rutsatz
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Well, with Twitter and all that, its hard to say that they can say whatever they want outside of work with no repercussions.

I would bet that a large amount of his followers know who he is and where he works, and it's no stretch that people could tie his opinions to the studio (no comment on his opinion).

It might not be an extreme opinion (lots here seem to agree with him) but what if it WERE viscous and hateful? Would they still ignore it? Kind of the same deal with the audio recording, except he willingly put it out for everyone. I can see both sides here.

Somara Atkinson
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But does it qualify as away from the job if it's the same Twitter account used to do community management for the company?

Michael Thornberg
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Wonder if this sounds familiar to certain people:
"I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write."
(It is *not* a quote by Voltaire, but he is often misattributed to it)

That statement properly carries all my opinions on that matter.

Bart Stewart
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At this rate, studios will soon have to start hiring four-year-olds as community managers... because everybody else is on record saying something that somebody somewhere can declare offends them.

Riley Dirksen
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I struggle to sympathize with Sterling at all. Hate speech is a crime. It DOES hurt others. Why should it be acceptable in the privacy of your home. It shouldn't be acceptable ANYWHERE. Can you beat your wife in the privacy of your own home? I don't believe people have the right to be bigots.

I also think anytime anyone has to qualify any statement, they should NEVER say the statement. "I detest what Sterling said BUT..." Just stop there. It doesn't work that way. I know a guy that constantly says "I'm not a racist BUT..." and then proceeds to say something horribly racist.

The part that angered me was calling Sterling a "victim." That's an insult to everyone that a billionaire, racist has victimized. He is certainly NOT a victim.

Cordero W
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In the current world of sensitivity to anyone getting their feelers hurt, having your own opinions is a good thing to me. Not everyone will agree with people on everything, and we shouldn't be obligated to think like the majority on issues. What makes us each unique is our views, likes, and dislikes. Sterling is an old man. He has been through it all over the years. He is as much of a businessman as he is a normal person. He's smart enough to have become the billionaire he is. If he was still thinking like a businessman, he wouldn't have made those comments public. But look at the timing of this. He's probably ready to not have to deal with any of this public obligation stuff anymore. He's probably tired of having to keep his mouth closed just to appease some corporate vision. It's like shackles, holding him from thinking what he thinks. No one has taken the time to think: "maybe he said it because of experience over the years and his time in the business. Not because he hate black people." So he said what he said. I'm sure Sterling knows what he said and was already ready for the consequences. He probably was drinking when he said, or maybe not. Who cares. It was his choice. That thing we humans were born with since the beginning of time.

And for anyone who tries to take this out of context like Turtle Rock did to Olin: it doesn't mean I agree with what Sterling said. I respect his position to be able to say what he wants. As long as he knows the consequences. If he takes this like a man, he has more of my respect. If he tries to dispute it, then he contradicts his stance.

Kyle Redd
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"He's smart enough to have become the billionaire he is. If he was still thinking like a businessman, he wouldn't have made those comments public."

Sterling's comments were made in a phone conversation with his then-girlfriend. They were secretly recorded without his permission and then leaked to the press. So he wasn't even speaking publicly. That's why Olin said (correctly) that he is a victim.

I agree with everything else you pointed out, just wanted to clarify that.

Amir Barak
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@Cordero, wait what?
"Sterling is an old man."
Yeah, you know who else is an old man? Pretty much everyone who hasn't died young. It really doesn't take much to become old, you can get old by sitting on your ass doing nothing. I fail to see how that's an argument or excuse for anyone...

"He is as much of a businessman as he is a normal person."
Has being a businessman become some sort of super-power when I wasn't looking?

"having to keep his mouth closed just to appease some corporate vision."
Yeah, f*** those corporations with their vision of tolerance and an America free of hatred, racism and violence. Clearly we need MORE people like Sterling!

"No one has taken the time to think: "maybe he said it because of experience over the years and his time in the business. Not because he hate black people.""
No one has taken the time to think this because it makes no sense. Really, most of your constructed arguments make no sense to be honest. They seem disjointed and contradictory and have little or no logic to them.

"He probably was drinking when he said, or maybe not. Who cares. It was his choice. "
See previous point.

"And for anyone who tries to take this out of context like Turtle Rock"
It is literally impossible to take this out of context since it has none.

"I respect his position to be able to say what he wants."
Everyone can say what they want (doesn't mean they should by the way), so I guess you respect everyone?

" If he tries to dispute it, then he contradicts his stance."
Then you stop respecting his right to say what he wants...? huh? You've just contradicted yourself.

"If he takes this like a man, he has more of my respect."
Oh boy, where to begin here... What if he takes it like a woman? What the hell does taking it like a man even mean? How do men take it exactly?

Given that I've just said what I wanted to say I have your respect. Also given that I'm not going to back down and contradict myself I have more of your respect. So thank you and I hope that, as someone who you clearly value so highly, you'll listen to reason and stop respecting Sterling so much. :D

Dane MacMahon
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Hate speech isn't a crime in the US unless you are inciting violence, which he was not. Just as an "FYI," not debating your main points.

Shea Rutsatz
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A lot of people seem to think this was a one-time thing, a private comment, or drinking, or some other excuse. Take the time to look up his past - this isn't near his worst racial incidents.

Don't use the "old man" excuse - he full well hates/dislikes black people and other minorities, and hasn't done much to keep it hidden. Former players are coming out of the woodworks describing the crap he said to them, and helps to understand why the Clippers have been the worst franchise in sports history since he's owned them

. And even if these were private opinions, how could having a racist owner help anything? ESPECIALLY in one with about a 90% African American population? It's just crazy that he would even WANT to own an NBA team.

Ujn Hunter
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Turtle Rock sounds like a place you shouldn't want to work at anyhow...

Anton Temba
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I agree, its kind of like how the Nazis condition their society; "You may think, but do not speak it."

Amir Barak
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Nazis... really... you're... you're going with Nazis here?

Let me get this straight. You are calling Turtle Rock a bunch of Nazis for firing their community manager after he completely failed at being a community manager and harmed their public image? Is that right? Did I get it right?

You know what, here's another piece of advice both Olin and Sterling should have considered; It's better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it. (Guess I'm a f***ing Nazi too now, right?).

Last week was Holocaust memorial day here. Please think a little before throwing around the term Nazi, alright.

Matt Jahns
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Many of the comments here, not to mention the controversial Twitter remark itself, seem to think freedom of speech grants immunity from social contracts. This is problematic, to put it generously.

Americans, as a community, have adopted an outright prohibition on intentional racism. We certainly have problems with implicit, institutional racism. You are not, unfortunately, violating any social agreement by engaging in or supporting, say, stop-and-frisk policies. That's something our community still accepts. But explicit racist attitudes and actions were rejected by society during the Civil Rights Movement.

Freedom of speech means no one can stop Donald Sterling from endorsing intentionally racist views. That does not mean, however, that nothing Sterling said could possibly violate the social contract determined by Americans as a community. And because Donald Sterling lives in and benefits from our community, he consents to our social norms and has agreed to be judged by them.

That is what I see so many people missing. Josh Olin took sides with Donald Sterling against the standards of his community. Sometimes you are right to break a social contract, if your community's standards are unjust in some way. That seems to be Olin's position, and, if so, he is correct for speaking out. But right or wrong, you are breaking that contract and accepting whatever consequences that entails.

This is exactly why Socrates stayed in Athens after losing his trial, instead of fleeing for his life. He thought the Athenian community's ethics were warped, and that he was morally in the right. At the same time, he understood that by living in and benefiting from the Athenian community, he had consented to be bound by his society's standards - however much he disagreed with them.

Andrew Jackson
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I am blown away by the comments here. Why is everyone screaming "free speech" and saying Sterling and Olin are victims?

Sterling has a long history of being a racist, just look at the law suites against him and his past public statements. He is a despicable human being, not a victim, end of story. And it's claimed that he asked to be taped.

Olin is the public voice for a company and used that position to amass ~140,000 followers. His employer has every right to fire him if he uses that platform to express opinions that harm their brand.

If he was a programmer or an animator with no expectation of being a public representative for the company, or if he made these remarks in private, he absolutely should not have been fired. But, that wasn't the case.

Lastly, the first amendment is completely irrelevant here, stop trying to make this into a political story.

Michael DeFazio
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---well if we do horrible things (bait and invade someones privacy for personal gain) even to horrible people...I think that is the point...I mean what people say and think and do in the privacy of their own homes:
1) should not be scrutinized by the public
2) should not be used against them (assuming they had no intention of making it public)

While i agree this Sterling is a bum, he really should have been sanctioned YEARS AGO for his public actions, and NOT for "private" conversations he had that were not intended for public consumption... Bomani Jones did a entertaining job of describing the incident:

Ty Underwood
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yeah, Sterling has a right as an american to say bigoted things, and he's not in jail, so no right is violated. What victimhood is Olin seeing? That another private organization has a right to distance themselves from a toxic person?