- Marvel asked ‘Maus’ author to remove Trump reference from essay–he refused 2 Years Ago
- Counselors reportedly pressured to share private info about Facebook moderators 2 Years Ago
- Barstool Sports founder under investigation for anti-union tweets Today 12:34 PM
- Harmony Korine’s ‘The Beach Bum’ is now streaming on Hulu Today 12:19 PM
- How an Instagram feud led to the death of 9-year-old girl Today 11:08 AM
- A scarier ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ extended director’s cut is coming to Blu-ray Today 9:15 AM
- The 9 best podcasts for kids that entertain and educate Today 8:00 AM
- Swipe This! Why does my BFF get more likes on Instagram than me? Today 6:00 AM
- The 25 Tom Cruise movies that are essential viewing Today 6:00 AM
- No, that guy didn’t really fly alone on a Delta flight Saturday 4:31 PM
- Fans are paying to meet their favorite YouTubers online through pilot program Saturday 2:54 PM
- Behold: 12 straight hours of ‘Stranger Things” Alexei drinking a Slurpee Saturday 2:05 PM
- Influencer couple under fire for using holy water to splash genitals in Bali Saturday 1:29 PM
- These are the 10 best villains DC comics has ever conceived Saturday 1:11 PM
- The Daily Wire accused of stealing art design from pop artist for its merchandise Saturday 12:09 PM
You can’t go anywhere on the gaming internet in 2018 without seeing Ugandan Knuckles, a warped, racist version of a Sonic the Hedgehog character. The meme has ruined the virtual reality social game VRChat, it’s been in videos by hugely popular YouTuber PewDiePie, and now it’s popping up at competitive gaming events. That’s causing problems for esports leagues, which are torn between cracking down on a popular trend and allowing a problematic meme to sneak into their broadcasts.
In case you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it, here’s a brief recap of the Ugandan Knuckles phenomenon. The character started as a funny drawing on a gaming YouTube channel, then some fans gave it a “Ugandan” accent based on the Ugandan-made low-budget action comedy Who Killed Captain Alex? Soon, swarms of trolls were running around online, using Knuckles avatars and saying “Do you know de wey?”—a line from the movie—in a fake African accent.
Predictably, the joke went beyond just quoting the film. It became an excuse for white gamers to say “n***a” and to mock African languages by doing a bunch of exaggerated tongue-clicking. When people pointed out that Knuckles had become problematic, his defenders turned him into an alt-right “free speech” icon along the lines of Pepe the Frog. It’s a fraught situation for corporations to navigate without alienating part of their fanbases.
Overwatch League, the brand new competitive arm of Blizzard’s popular shooter Overwatch, has already been beset with Ugandan Knuckles content—not just from viewers, but from the players themselves. Kotaku’s Maddy Myers and Nathan Grayson reported this week about how the meme has plagued OWL’s first two weeks:
Ugandan Knuckles’ repeated appearances in and around Overwatch League have prompted confusion from viewers who rightly point out that the meme has become a racist caricature.
As of week two of OWL, Ugandan Knuckles signs were still making occasional appearances in the crowd on match broadcasts.
Uganda is a natuonality not a race you ignorant imbecile— Gas Mask Guy (@JangSoap) January 25, 2018
Could you shut the fuck up please— donkeyslap bitches (@JackAkm1) January 25, 2018
The less you complain about it being "racist", the faster it dies.
Wtf is this retarded shit none of those memes are racist— Reoa (@Cyrexed) January 25, 2018
I find calling everything racist and thinking that minorities are super sensitive to "racist" jokes is one of the most racist thing you can do.— Rikhards (@RNiiva) January 25, 2018
You asshats wouldn’t know a JOKE if it bit you, in the ass!— Cybrwolf (@Cybrwolf0) January 25, 2018
Please do everyone a favor, and FIRE your SJW staff. They are too sensitive to handle reporting on either the Internet, or the gaming scene.
Maybe Ugandan Knuckles represented a joke at some point, but it’s clear that what he’s come to represent now is white people defending their right to be racist without being called racist. These griefers are probably just an outspoken minority of Overwatch fans, but Blizzard and the Overwatch League would certainly be courting backlash if they tried to ban the meme. Having to thread that needle is certainly an unenviable position for a corporate PR team to find itself in. Hopefully, they can find de wey to handle the situation without making the meme even bigger.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.