Shaq says gaming event heading to the White House

Basketball great tweets that White House is hosting event to lure gamers to sign up for health care coverage.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read
Screenshot/The White House

Leave it to Shaq to try to get video gamers off the couch and sign up for health insurance.

Basketball great --and e-sports investor -- Shaquille O'Neal said Thursday the White House is hosting a competitive gaming event to air on live-streaming channel Twitch on December 12. It marks the first time 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will hold an e-sports and gaming marathon.

"(The White House's) desire to present the Competitive Gaming Event to promote health coverage enrollment exemplifies how they continue to have their hand on the pulse of the younger generation," said Brian Petrocelli, a Twitch product marketing executive. "We share their enthusiasm since we also see the value of health coverage and encourage everyone to explore their options."

As some of the best in e-sports will be playing games, they will also be persuading fellow gamers to sign up for health care insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." The event will be just days before the December 15 deadline to sign up for coverage to start on January 1, 2017. Nearly 30 million people signed up last year.

O'Neal, also known as "The Big Aristotle," took to social media to make the announcement:

How popular is e-sports? A PwC report projects the industry will generate about $463 million this year, a 43 percent increase from 2015. More people now watch major e-sports competitions than the number of people who watch the NBA finals or World Series, said Erik Martin, a policy advisor for the White House's science and technology policy office, citing reports.

Shaq's spot follows up last year's White House initiative encouraging more gamers to sign up for health insurance at HealthCare.gov.

So what's Shaq's connection to e-sports? Earlier this year, the basketball hall of famer bought a stake in NRG, an e-sports outfit that has teams competing in the popular League of Legends and Counter-Strike.

He is among a growing list of athletes and teams investing in e-sports.

First published at 5:38 p.m. PT.

Update at 6:10 p.m. PT: Adds more information and comment from Twitch executive.