UPDATE 8TH JAN 2019: Blizzard has issued a statement on the Second Wind imposter, warning others against trying the same thing.
"After investigating the matter, we found that 'Ellie' was a fabricated identity and is a smurf account - created by a veteran player to obfuscate their identity. The owner of Ellie's account is a player with no current or prior involvement with any Overwatch Contenders or Overwatch League team. 'Ellie' was never formally submitted to the active roster of Second Wind and never played in a Contenders match.
"As part of the process to officially add a player to a Contenders or Overwatch League roster, we do background checks to ensure that players are who they say they are as well as meet other eligibility requirements, and will take action against players if we discover any behaviour that warrants it."
ORIGINAL STORY 5TH JAN 2019: An Overwatch team has found their female player was an imposter.
Second Wind, a North American Contenders team, said their player, "Ellie", was not who she said she was after mounting speculation about her true identity.
In a statement, Second Wind said Blizzard notified the team Ellie "was not who they claimed to be... and discovered that the Ellie account was used for purposes we do not support".
Second Wind admitted it failed to properly verify the identity of "Ellie", who they discovered as the rank four player on the North American servers, and blamed the move on time pressure to fill a spot on their team.
"Due to our need to fill a main position as well, a closing in deadline for roster submissions, and our team having experience with the player, we extended an offer to play on Second Wind as a substitute. When we originally contacted Ellie, there was nothing that would spark suspicion. They seemed to be very genuine and willing to work with us on calls and within private messages.
"Due to the fact that we do not have any physical contact with our players, we wanted to verify their identity but also wanted to respect their privacy as well. We genuinely had no idea of what was to come, and at the time we underestimated how important it would be to set an example as the first team to take on a female player for Contenders."
"Ellie" then stepped down after receiving doxxing and personal threats "due to their anonymity", according to Second Wind. But while Second Wind nor Blizzard has so far named the person behind the Ellie account, fresh claims indicate "Ellie" is in fact a man who goes by the name "Punisher".
Live on Twitch, a streamer called Becca "Aspen" Rukavina said "Ellie" was "Punisher" - and the whole thing was an ill-advised "social experiment" that got "out of hand".
Further evidence the Ellie account is played by this "Punisher" person is revealed in the video below, which shows Overwatch streamer Redshell speaking to a woman who provides images of an online conversation she had with "Punisher".
It looks like this "social experiment", if it was actually intended as such, was an attempt to make some kind of point about women in esports, but it was heavily criticised. Liz Richardson, boss of Overwatch website Overwatchscore, said it will have "lasting ramifications" for women who already face an uphill challenge in esports.
I am seven goddamn thousand levels of livid about this Ellie situation. People involved aside, this "stunt" will have lasting ramifications for ANY woman/nb person trying to get into Contenders. They will ALL now be subject to "lol are you real??" harassment.— Liz Richardson (@mizliz_) January 4, 2019
Richardson wasn't the only woman to express concern about the situation.
hey punisher im so glad you had a fun time seeing what its like to be a girl playing an online video game for *checks calendar* about 12 days. glad you can go back to ur normal life now and not have to deal with any of that anymore. wish i knew what that felt like!— nika (@runchranda) January 4, 2019
very cool also that this dude decided he didn't feel like dealing with the backlash of being a woman in gaming anymore so he just got to stop. where's MY opportunity to opt out of misogyny— bonnie 🌻 (@bonniequeue) January 4, 2019
Sexism breeds more sexism, gee who would’ve guessed, time to make a sOCiAl eXPEriMENt— Fareeha (@FareehaAndersen) January 4, 2019
And Overwatch players have hit out at the "Ellie" account, too. In one of the top posts on r/Overwatch, redditor hydra877 said: "Now, more than ever, any girl that tries to go pro will get this gigantic amount of scrutiny and will be practically forced to reveal aspects of their personal lives just to prove they're a woman."
Meanwhile, Punisher has yet to comment.