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Photo: Bloomberg/ Getty Images

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick sent a lengthy letter to employees late on Tuesday, listing steps the company will take to address widespread allegations of sexist and discriminatory conduct at the "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft" gaming company.

Why it matters: This was the most comprehensive message from the company, and a softer one than had been sent by Kotick's PR people and a top executive last week.

  • "I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days," Kotick wrote.
  • "Every voice matters — and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future. Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf."

Driving the news: In his letter, Kotick said the company would:

  • Start listening sessions and "continue to investigate each and every claim."
  • Terminate any managers "found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences."
  • Add resources to "ensure" managers were adhering to a prior directive to consider diverse candidates to all positions.

Between the lines: Last Tuesday, California filed a lawsuit against the company over its "sexist culture."

  • The suit included allegations of unequal, discriminatory pay and allegations of a toxic sexist culture that included drunken male employees harassing female employees in their cubicles.
  • It also alleged that an employee who died by suicide may have been subjected to repeated sexual harassment.
  • A senior executive had described the suit as "distorted," "untrue," "meritless," and "out of date."

Of note: Employees announced earlier in the day plans for a walkout on Wednesday.

  • They issued a list of demands, including an independent investigation and an end to contracts that mandate arbitration to resolve disputes.
  • "It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues," the workers said in a statement shared with Axios.
  • In his letter, Kotick said the company has asked the firm WilmerHale to review company policies and said that work will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who most recently served as a director in the SEC's enforcement division during the Trump administration.

What to watch: The company also said it would also delete "inappropriate" in-game content in "World of Warcraft."

  • That could be a reference to characters in the game who are named after a long-time former creative lead on the game who is now accused in the California suit of sexual harassment.
  • An Activision PR rep did not reply by press time to clarify.

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2021 - Sports

Chicago Blackhawks failed to investigate sexual harassment allegation, report says

Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks released the findings of an independent investigation Tuesday that centered on "disturbing" sexual misconduct allegations dating back to 2010.

Driving the news: The report found that the team's senior management had "violated" the Blackhawks' own sexual harassment policy and failed to properly address sexual harassment and assault allegations.

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs “dull” DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

Updated 60 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker