Overwatch Contenders team Second Wind released a statement on Saturday affirming that one of their roster additions, a player by the name of "Ellie," was a male competitor assuming a female persona.
Ellie was initially regarded as the first female player to be rostered in North American Overwatch Contenders. The team stated that prior to an investigation by Blizzard Entertainment, Second Wind were unaware that Ellie -- who had risen to the No. 4 rank on the North American Overwatch competitive servers -- was not who the player claimed to be.
On Saturday, an Overwatch spokesperson told ESPN that it confirmed via the Ellie account that Ellie was a second, or "smurf," account run by a veteran player of the game.
"The owner of Ellie's account is a player with no current or prior involvement with any Overwatch Contenders or Overwatch League team," the spokesperson said. "'Ellie' was never formally submitted to the active roster of Second Wind and never played in a Contenders match.
"As part of the process to officially add a player to a Contenders or Overwatch League roster, we do background checks to ensure that players are who they say they are, as well as meet other eligibility requirements, and will take action against players if we discover any behavior that warrants it."
Overwatch Contenders competition takes place online, and unlike in premier leagues such as Overwatch League, there is little to no in-person interaction between players and the staffs of the organizations.
After Ellie's addition to the Second Wind team on Dec. 21, the player received numerous harassing messages, as well as threats to expose personal information of both the player and teammates. On Wednesday, Ellie stepped down from Second Wind, with the team citing "unforeseen reactions."
Due to their lack of competitive history, much of the Overwatch community -- fans, professional players and livestreamers -- called Ellie's validity into question, accusing the player of being a persona for another male player, including some of the Second Wind team. On Friday and Saturday, two different players, former Second Wind flex Colin "Coluge" Arai and another by the name of "Punisher," took responsibility for being the participants behind the account. Coluge later tweeted that he "only did that tweet as a joke" and was not behind the Ellie account.
"When we originally contacted Ellie, there was nothing that would spark suspicion," Second Wind said in their statement. "They seemed to be very genuine and willing to work with us on calls and within private messages. Due to the fact that we do not have any physical contact with our players, we wanted to verify their identity but also wanted to respect their privacy as well. We genuinely had no idea of what was to come, and at the time we underestimated how important it would be to set an example as the first team to take on a female player for Contenders."
A Twitter account under the "Ellie" name was created and made its first post on Dec. 16, which was a screenshot of the player reaching the No. 4 spot. Second Wind added Ellie to their roster on Dec. 21 with the intent of the player taking a substitute position. On Dec. 22, Ellie livestreamed on Twitch, speaking sporadically throughout the stream.
"As of [Saturday], Blizzard had gotten back to us on the background of Ellie and notified us that they were not who they claimed to be, and discovered that the Ellie account was used for purposes we do not support," Second Wind said. "We apologize to the community as a whole for not handling this situation better when we should have, and we will aim to do better."