On Sunday, Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, a YouTube gaming personality with 57 million subscribers, called another player a “fucking n*gger” during a livestreamed game of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. After a massive backlash, on Tuesday morning, Kjellberg published a brief video titled “My Response” in which he apologized for his word choice, saying, “It just kind of slipped out.”
“You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but whenever I go online and I hear other players use the same kind of language that I did, I always find it extremely immature and stupid, and I hate how I now personally feed into that part of gaming as well,” Kjellberg said.
“It was something that I said in the heat of the moment. I said the worst word I could possibly think of and it just kind of slipped out. I’m not going to make any excuses as to why it did because there are no excuses for it.”
Though this video is Kjellberg’s most direct response to the controversy since it transpired, it isn’t his first — not really. After the incident, Kjellberg posted a video titled “Stream Fails,” in which he reacts to embarrassing mistakes that other YouTubers have made. The timing could be interpreted as a cheeky, sarcastic deflection of his own slip-up.
It’s worth noting that Kjellberg’s apology video never directly states what he said or explains why using racial slurs is so harmful. Still, for someone whose online identity revolves around over-the-top, goofy antics, this more candid, moderately self-aware Kjellberg is a welcome change of pace, especially when compared to the way he has responded to criticism in the past.
In February, when the Wall Street Journal published a report about Kjellberg’s use of Nazi imagery and jokes about Hitler across several videos — a report that led to Disney and YouTube Red severing their contracts with him — Kjellberg denied he had a role in normalizing hatred or empowering others to use the same sort of language. Instead, Kjellberg characterized the report as a personal attack against him. (Notably, that video is no longer available.)
It’s unclear what kind of long-term effects, if any, this particular controversy will have on Kjellberg’s persona moving forward, and that’s probably the way Kjellberg wants it. It’s clear that Kjellberg delights in being as brash and unpredictable as possible, and his fanbase rewards him for it — but hopefully he can find a way to do so without hurting people.
The full transcript of Kjellberg’s most recent apology video is below:
I wanted to make a statement on what I said in my previous livestream. You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but whenever I go online and I hear other players use the same kind of language that I did, I always find it extremely immature and stupid and I hate how I now personally feed into that part of gaming as well. It was something that I said in the heat of the moment. I said the worst word I could possibly think of and it just kind of slipped out.