Original Article By Paul Tassit At Forbes.com:

High-profile streamer and FaZe content creator Nickmercs grew so large in the Call of Duty community that eventually, Activision gave him his own branded Operator skin. But that Operator has now been removed from sale in the wake of his comments in a thread posted by MLG’s Chris Puckett showing an attack by an anti-LGBTQ group on pro-LGBTQ group during Pride.

Nickmercs’ tweet, which has now been viewed 11.3 million times by Twitter metrics, says to “leave little children alone. That’s the real issue.”

It is a reference to a common Republican talking point alleging that the LGBTQ community is “grooming” children by educating them about the existence of sexual and gender identity. It’s been the focus Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws and has become a major platform issue for many Republicans, especially Florida’s own governor and presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis.

Call of Duty responded a day later by announcing they were removing Nickmercs’ Spartan-themed Operator skin from the store:

They say “recent events,” but they specifically cite their own celebration of Pride, indicating Nickmercs’ comments were not something they wanted to be officially associated with via a top creator partnership. The skin has not been deleted from the collection of those who already purchased it, but it is no longer for sale.

Nickmercs later posted a video expanding on the tweet, saying he “didn’t mean to upset anybody” but made it clear he is “not apologizing for the tweet. I don’t think it’s wrong,” he says. He alleges the point he was trying to make was about how parents should talk to their children about those issues rather than teachers talking about it in a classroom, sparking debates about existing SexEd classes in schools.

It goes without saying this has resulted in a massive firestorm. While previously a big debate in the Call of Duty community was about whether Nickmercs “deserved” his own skin in the first place, now there are very vocal contingents who believe that Activision did the wrong thing here. And conversely, Activision is being praised by LGBTQ supporters for the move, which they view as a big win; a declarative statement of allyship from one of the largest gaming publishers and franchises. Additionally, there are debates, now frequently seen on Twitter especially, about “freedom of speech,” though Activision is a private company, and able to take unilateral action independent of the First Amendment, which only refers to the government. That’s what happened here.

The issue has brought other higher-profile creators into the mix. Dr Disrespect called the decision “Pathetic” in a tweet last night:

In addition to Nickmercs, now everyone who comments on the issues either way is subject to the sort of intense debate we’re seeing play out on the political stage daily, with the gaming community grappling with the same issues. Overwhelmingly, gaming publishers and developers have embraced Pride celebrations and public LGBTQ support, the last few years especially, so Activision’s move is not especially surprising. But it was always going to be controversial.

Representatives for Nickmercs say he will release a statement on the subject Friday.

Update (3:43 PM): This is the updated statement from Nick that was promised, which mainly thanks his supporters for “having his back.”