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The Shady Side Of Ninja

Not long ago, Tyler Blevins — better known as Ninja — worked at a fast food joint. As of March 2018, he was earning half a million dollars a month as a professional streamer, cementing his status as a celebrity in the gaming world. 

Ninja was among Twitch's top streamers with almost 4 million followers, had a YouTube following of 5 million people, plus over a million followers on Twitter and Instagram. Two years ago, he broke his own Twitch record for the maximum number of concurrent spectators (in a non-tournament setting) when he teamed up with rappers Drake and Travis Scott. They streamed to an eye-watering peak of over 600,000 viewers.

Despite his incredible success on Twitch, Microsoft managed to entice him away from the Amazon-owned platform to stream on Mixer. While the move may not have bolstered growth as much as Microsoft expected, Blevins, keeps moving from one good thing to another — he recently became the first individual professional gamer to sign an apparel deal with Adidas.

Some people consider Ninja to have a relatively "clean" image compared to his contemporaries. It's a close thing, though, as he has some pretty questionable moves under his belt.

Ninja refused to stream with women

Thou shalt not stream with women, or so read Ninja's rulebook back in 2018. He went to great pains to clarify that his stand was not borne of misogyny; quite the opposite, in fact. It was for the love of his wife and manager, Jessica Blevins. Because idle chat on gaming servers leads to gossip and that in turn fuels rumors, therefore, out of "respect" to Jessica, he intended to keep his channel female gamer free.

Ninja's stance and subsequent defense divided the gaming community. Though he acknowledged the harassment female gamers face, many criticized him for contributing to exclusionary, male-only communities. And this only adds to the already misogynistic culture of gaming, as evidenced by the backlash against those who called him out on his decision, especially women.

There is a twist yet to this tale. Ninja did go back on his personal rule and stream a game with a woman. And guess what? His marriage remains in tact.

Ninja used the N-word during a livestream

Ninja dropped the N-word live on Twitch back in early 2018. Worse, he said it while improvising rap lyrics during a song that doesn't even include the phrase in the original version. As you might expect, the internet fired back with outrage, prompting Ninja to issue an "apology."

During a Fortnite mission with streaming buddy Nadeshot, the pair put on Logic's "44 More" for some background inspiration and Ninja sang along. Then, possibly because he didn't remember the lyrics and started ad-libbing, Ninja dropped the N-word. The streaming world is not unaccustomed to racist controversy, but Ninja's (somewhat) clean-cut image took a bit of a beating. 

Twitch decided not to suspend him, determining that the "intent and context" in which he used the slur was not malicious. The lack of disciplinary action further divided the community, with some accusing the platform of being biased towards Ninja, one of its top commodities at the time.

Ninja got away with doxxing

Do two bad actions cancel each other out? Not when it comes to doxxing, the act of publishing private and identifiable information about a person online. Back in 2016, when Ninja was a Halo streamer, he was incensed at a donation that came in under a racist name. In retaliation, he released the viewer's full address and other personal information.

Doxxing violates Twitch's community guidelines. However, Ninja received a mere 48-hour ban, leading many to speculate he got away with it because of his popularity. Though the platform takes a zero-tolerance stance on threats and violence such as hacks, DDOS, or SWAT attacks, it seems sharing someone's personal information, despite the malicious intent and clear danger to the person's safety, does not fall under that category.

While racism and discrimination are inexcusable, it's deeply irresponsible for a celebrity to use their influence to support the mob mentality and vigilante justice the internet has developed a reputation for.

Ninja falsely accused a fellow gamer of stream-sniping

In late 2018, Ninja threw a temper tantrum after being eliminated in a Fortnite match. The streamer falsely reported a fellow gamer in a rage for stream-sniping. This term describes "the practice of playing a game against a streamer while watching their broadcast to gain an advantage." Unfortunately, it is a pretty common occurrence and difficult to prove.

In this case, Ninja and his buddy Dr. Lupo were taken down by a player called IcyFive. After being lasered, they continued to watch IcyFive in spectator mode, with Dr. Lupo commenting, "Watch for the emote." Emoting to celebrate isn't unusual, and IcyFive did so right after Dr. Lupo's comment. Ninja deemed this proof he had been stream-sniping and reported him. He also called him an idiot and threatened to use his clout to get him banned.

IcyFive pleaded not guilty on Twitter, and, while Dr. Lupo seemed to believe him, Ninja did not. He has since "apologized," something he seems to do quite a bit.

Ninja thinks celebrity gamers should be held to different standards

According to Ninja, when fellow Fortnite gamer Faze Jarvis used an aimbot cheat (software that auto-aims weapons) in some of his videos, he was just being "a stupid kid making a stupid decision," and he "didn't really fully think about it." Therefore, he believes Epic Games' lifetime ban to the 17-year-old was harsh and over the top. "What else is he going to play?" Ninja asked. Though he also sent out some mixed signals by adding that he didn't feel bad for Jarvis and that he wasn't empathizing.

Ninja asserted that content creators with millions of subscribers who earn their money from streaming should be treated with more leniency than casual gamers who cheat, who he described as "some kid who is just a piece of s*** who has absolutely zero followings, has zero money that comes from Fortnite, from gaming, and hacks." In case of the former, he claimed the "stakes are different." 

Ninja's words garnered significant backlash and he later clarified he "had a lot of time to think ... and there definitely can't be any exceptions." However, he maintained a permanent ban was still too extreme.

Ninja defended his Twitch event advertisement on other streamers' channels

Ninja was set to host a New Year's Eve countdown on Twitch to usher in 2019, but the promotion of the event left his fellow streamers upset when advertisements appeared on their channels. "It's a direct conflict of interest," tweeted BikeMan, while Lance Aurion said, "I work hard for every viewers I get and that doesn't even top 10 sometimes, how am I going to grow if people go watch @ninja instead my stream because of the ad?" MadtownMaverick also had something to say: "If you had a NYE event planned it sucks to have Twitch force an ad promoting someone else's channel."

While Ninja may not have been responsible for where the advertisements appeared, he painted himself in a poor light by jumping in to defend them and also implying that the criticism was personal. He tweeted, "This event is going to be broadcasted to millions of people and continue to grant exposure to Twitch, which in turn allows other streamers to gain more viewers. What's not to like? Or is it just because it's me?" He later deleted the statement.

Ninja lashed out at his viewers for backseat gaming

Ninja has not always taken a bad game in stride. When he hit a rough patch while adjusting to the changes in Fortnite Chapter 2, he snapped at his spectators for distracting him with backseat gaming. He appeared to struggle with the new game mechanics, ending up on the wrong side of more than a few encounters. As his chat stream filled up with appraisals of his gameplay, he commented, "Listen guys, I need all of you you guys to stop giving me advice. Okay?"

The Chapter 2 update did have a lot of changes, including transport by boat and giving players the ability to fish for items. What irked Ninja, though, weren't the new items and abilities; he even accused Epic of making some under-the-hood changes to the in-game mechanics. "I don't need to stick with the team more; it wasn't a bad push; I wasn't too aggressive ... I literally f**king choked," Ninja retorted.

Ninja's feud with Tfue has gotten ugly

Ninja and fellow gamer Tfue maintain a longstanding rivalry, having faced off against each other on numerous battle royale missions when they were both on Twitch. Professional strife aside, their interactions have grown a little heated on more than one occasion as they take pot shots at each other on their streams or Twitter.

When Tfue hit out at recent changes in Fortnite in October 2019, Ninja responded with a snide comment saying he was enjoying it, and if Tfue didn't like it, he shouldn't be playing. Predictably, Tfue supporters jumped on him for sounding like an advertisement for Epic, to which Ninja responded, "Coming from the dude tweeting about how s**t the game is yet plays it and uploads Fortnite videos everyday? What's more of an #ad?"

This wasn't quite the end of it. Tfue struck back, saying Ninja had always hated him, "no matter how nice I am to the kid ... So I don't really know what to tell you guys. But I don't really care." Later on, Ninja stated influencers like Tfue were hurting the game by deriding it.

Ninja can be a bit of a hypocrite

Just weeks after slamming Tfue and then Dakotaz for saying less than complimentary things about Fortnite Chapter 2, Ninja was caught doing exactly the same thing. When a fan called him out on it, he wasn't very gracious about the situation.

In early January 2020, after experiencing lags and being bested by another player, Ninja was clearly frustrated, saying, "I hate this game. I don't understand how I can never take walls or floors first try, ever." This resulted in one of his spectators pointing out his hypocrisy, having called out Dakotaz on the same thing.

Ninja's go-to defense always seems to be that it's different when he does it, from racial slurs and not streaming with women, to criticizing his game. In this case, he said his reaction was a heat-of-the-moment thing, which, to him, is not the same as tweeting a negative opinion without backing it up.

Ninja's tweet of an Adidas ad seemed like he was hanging himself

In August 2019, Ninja became the first individual pro-gamer to sign an endorsement deal with Adidas. Four months later, he was ready to launch his first product, a line of sneakers in his signature blue and gold, with the tagline "Time In" and his name. Of course, he took to his favorite social platform, Twitter, to drum up some excitement about it. In the process he committed something of a faux pas by sharing a tweet that seemed to imply he was hanging himself. To be fair, it wasn't all his fault — it was an ill-conceived advertisement by Adidas. He did delete the tweet, but it racked up 65 retweets and over 5,000 likes first.

This slip-up was discovered by a Twitch streamer who saw a strange tweet from Ninja that he tried to click on, only to find it wasn't there anymore. Puzzled, he took a closer look and realized what the problem was. The two photos — one with a person whose feet are off the ground and the other of Ninja with a streak of light across his face — seemed to give off a pretty dark message.