Read: Raising a social-media star
“Not only does Faze Clan take advantage of these young artists, it jeopardizes their health, safety and welfare,” Tenney’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman of Freedman + Taitelman, wrote in the filing. FaZe Clan also pressured Tenney to engage in dangerous stunts for YouTube videos. “During one video, Tenney suffered an injury to his arm while skateboarding which resulted in permanent disfigurement,” the claim reads.
FaZe Clan did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. But it did issue a statement via Twitter, saying, “We’re shocked and disappointed to see the news of Tfue’s press article and lawsuit … We have only collected a total $60,000 from our partnership, while Tfue has earned millions as a member of FaZe Clan. While contracts are different with each player, all of them—including Tfue’s—have a maximum of 20% to FaZe Clan in both tournament winnings as well as content revenue, with 80% to the player. In Turner’s case, neither of those have been collected by FaZe Clan. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together of the past year with Turner and will continue to support him.”
FaZe Banks, the founder of FaZe Clan, also responded to the lawsuit on Monday via Twitter. “At the end of the day this is all about money,” he tweeted. “More and more and more money. Clearly Tfue felt he deserved millions of dollars in salary in the addition to all the millions he earns on his platforms. He was unhappy and this was his attempt at getting out of the contract.”
Tenney is one of many gamers who have become immensely popular because of Fortnite, a video game that exploded in popularity over the past year. Tenney’s Twitch channel was the eighth most watched channel on the platform in 2018. He currently has more than 10 million subscribers on YouTube and more than 5.6 million followers on Instagram. Tenney joined FaZe Clan last April, just as his star was rising.
Tenney was just 20 years old when he signed a contract with FaZe Clan stating that the group is entitled to 80 percent of all revenue that Tenney makes through sponsored videos on Twitch and YouTube.
Freedman said that deals like these show just how easily young online-content creators can be exploited. Many young creators are unfamiliar with legal minutiae and can end up signing predatory agreements that can cripple their earnings during their peak years. (Tenney’s suit claims that at one point FaZe Clan signed an 11-year-old gamer and pressured him and his family to lie about his age.) Influencers like Tenney are also not subject to standard worker protections offered to talent in the traditional entertainment industry: They don’t receive paid time off or have a cap on the number of hours they can work in a day. “Because the esports industry is so new, there is little to no regulation or oversight,” Freedman wrote in the complaint. “There are no real organizations such as unions guilds to help protect the content creators/streamers that drive the industry.”