Gaming YouTuber ProJared accused of soliciting nude photos from minors

ProJared, via one of his YouTube videos.

ProJared, via one of his YouTube videos.

Jared 'ProJared' Knabenbauer, a popular gaming YouTuber who before today had 1 million subscribers, has been accused of soliciting and receiving nude photos from underage fans. Knabenbauer has not commented on the allegations.

Yesterday, Knabenbauer's wife, cosplay star Heidi O’Ferrall, accused him of infidelity, citing it as the primary reason for the couple's pending divorce in a Twitter thread detailing the end of their relationship. O’Ferrall then brought up Knabenbauer's efforts to receive nude photos from fans, which she was aware of during their marriage.

"In the beginning, it was a joke on Tumblr," wrote O'Ferrall. "Then it was its own Tumblr account just for nudes. It was ostensibly a body-positive space for consenting adults, and I approved on that basis."

According to O'Ferrall, Knabenbauer's efforts "escalated" to the use of a private Snapchat, which she was initially unaware of and felt uncomfortable with. 

"I used to think that among consenting adults, it was fine," wrote O'Ferrall. "Now I see it as an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he's a popular internet man. I would like to apologize for my role in enabling this."

According to two former fans who chose to speak up in the wake of O'Ferrall's public criticism of the YouTube star, they were not consenting adults, and were actually underage when they exchanged nude photos with Knabenbauer.

One former fan who goes by the name Chai says that he had sexually explicit conversations with Knabenbauer at the age of 16, and that they exchanged nude photos. "He knew I was 16," said Chai.

In his statement, Chai references a friend who allegedly had a similar experience with ProJared. That friend, who goes by Charlie, subsequently released a statement detailing similar interactions.

Charlie, who was a "really, really big fan of ProJared" between the ages of 15 and 16, says that they do not recall Knabenbauer asking for their age after receiving nude photos. "He messaged me and thanked me and told me I was beautiful and all that shit," they wrote.

Charlie points out that because many of ProJared's fans were minors, openly soliciting nudes from them was bound to have this result. "I'm not proud of my actions," wrote Charlie, "but, as Chai stated, I was not the adult in this situation."

According to Charlie, that initial interaction led to further sexual conversations.

The two friends began collecting evidence of Knabenbauer's behavior sometime in or around 2018, some of which Charlie has posted on Twitter in the thread beneath their statement, and Chai says they had already been preparing to come forward before O'Ferrall's tweets. But those tweets, and the ensuing conversation around Knabenbauer's fan interactions, is what spurred them to come forward now.

Before this week, Chai had already informed NormalBoots about the inappropriate behavior. The YouTube collective, which ProJared belonged to, includes other popular channels such as Did You Know Gaming and Continue?. Chai published a screenshot of an email dated April 5 in which NormalBoots manager Jacque Khalil assures him that the matter is being taken seriously. 

Khalil confirmed to PC Gamer that Chai's complaint was received, and that ProJared is no longer affiliated with the group. He provided the following statement:

On April 4, 2019, an unsolicited e-mail was sent to the NormalBoots business account containing allegations of inappropriate conduct pertaining to Jared Knabenbauer.

Upon receiving the e-mail, NormalBoots Manager, Jacque Khalil took immediate action to alert the appropriate parties, including Mr. Knabenbauer and the NormalBoots legal team, of the allegations. No other members of NormalBoots were made aware of the allegations while the investigation into the allegations was ongoing.

NormalBoots understands the seriousness of this situation and does not condone any of the alleged actions of Mr. Knabenbauer.

Prior to these allegations being made public, actions and measures were in process to terminate the affiliation of Mr. Knabenbauer from NormalBoots and to update its internal social media use policies. Mr. Knabenbauer and NormalBoots have mutually agreed to part ways.

What drives NormalBoots is the energy of our supporters. We care greatly about their protection and safety. It’s impossible to have a true community if all of us don’t feel safe, whether it’s in an online space or a convention. We are fully committed to this goal and will not tolerate less.

ProJared's page on NormalBoots is now gone

Yesterday, ProJared posted a statement on Twitter about his divorce, though he did not address any specific accusations. "During this time you may see a lot of rumors, speculation and gossip going around," he wrote. "I ask that you make your own observations and come to your own conclusions." 

PC Gamer has contacted Knabenbauer for comment, and will update this article if he responds.

Recently, YouTube singer Austin Jones faced similar allegations. In a plea agreement, the musician admitted to soliciting explicit videos from underage fans, in some cases telling them that the videos were a way "to 'prove' they were his biggest fans," according to the Northern District of Illinois US Attorney’s Office. Earlier this month, Jones was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "receipt of child pornography."

Following the accusation of infidelity and alleged abuse of his status to solicit nude photos, ProJared's YouTube subscriber count has dropped significantly, and continues to fall

Tyler has spent over 800 hours playing Rocket League, and slightly fewer nitpicking the PC Gamer style guide. His primary news beat is game stores: Steam, Epic, and whatever launcher squeezes into our taskbars next.