Ubisoft apologizes after Elite Squad trailer casts BLM protestors as villains

Ubisoft's reveal of Tom Clancy's Elite Squad drew ire after introducing a fictional terrorist organization with imagery highly comparable to that of Black Lives Matter protests.


2020 has increasingly been a year of massive missteps for Ubisoft, and it continues to be the case with the publisher’s recent release of a new mobile Tom Clancy title: Elite Squad. Shortly following launch, Ubisoft has been forced to issue an apology regarding Elite Squad for Black Lives Matter imagery being used by the in-game terrorist organization and its further portrayal of radical extremists operating within protest groups.

Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad launched on August 27, 2020 on iOS and Android devices. Having been announced back in June 2019, the mobile game was meant to bring a number of iconic Ubisoft characters together in an action RPG format. It wasn’t long after launch that users took notice and ire with the opening cinematics of the game, whose villains are an underground terrorist group called UMBRA, use protests as cover for terrorist activity, and use imagery nearly identical to Black Lives Matter protests. You can see the unaltered version of the Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad opening cinematic in the video below, as posted YouTube channel dustinscout.

Given recent events, it seems difficult to argue that UMBRA and its imagery is any less than a reference to Black Lives Matter and rather heinous assumptions about the motives of ongoing civil unrest and protests regarding unjust killings and police brutality. With that in mind, outrage over the similarities and depictions in Elite Squad eventually forced Ubisoft to issue an apology on August 29, promising to remove the “raised fist” imagery.

“Imagery that appeared in the opening video sequence of Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad featuring a ‘raised fist’ was insensitive and harmful in both its inclusion and how it was portrayed,” Ubisoft wrote. “We have listened and appreciate the players and the broader community who have pointed it out and we apologize. The ‘raised fist’ imagery will be removed in the next title update this Tuesday, September 1 on Android and as soon as possible on iOS.”

It’s far from the first questionable decision from Ubisoft in 2020. The publisher has been floundering in the wake of a number of executive firings, including Assassin’s Creed Creative Director Ashraf Ismail, Vice President of Editorial & Creative Services Tommy Francois, and Chief Creative Officer Serge Hascoët. Each firing is related to Ubisoft’s previous promise to internally investigate and take action against sexual harassment and workplace toxicity in its studios.

The issues in Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad may seem unrelated, but the sheer blatancy of issues in the portrayal of its villains in relation to BLM protestors may also be indicative of just how much the publisher is scrambling to stay on top of anything in its troubled 2020. Stay tuned for further news and updates as we continue to follow the matter.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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