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Apex organiser Alex Strife faces sexual harassment allegations

CaptainTim 2015-01-20 03:44:09

The old phrase ‘it never rains but it pours’ seems pretty apposite right now in the world of competitive Smash, and with the biggest tournament in the history of Melee on the horizon it looks as though we’re set for another brown deluge. Although Jonathan ‘Alex Strife’ Lugo, aged 30, is no stranger to controversy, the latest round of (resurfacing) allegations against him are far more serious in nature than those we’ve seen in the past, and a man with a penchant for threatening to walk away from the scene when things don’t go his way might just find himself run out of town if he can’t refute these claims about his behaviour.

Overnight allegations came to light regarding Lugo that appear to show his behaviour toward under-age girls and trans members of the Smash scene as inappropriate to say the least, and the supporting evidence is both varied and seemingly verifiable. A post on reddit from a user called ‘EmilyKiwi’, real name Emily Wajda, went up earlier today, detailing allegations of some extremely predatory and inappropriate interactions between herself and Lugo when she was 14. The poster herself covered the incident in a blog five or so years ago (which she alleges was censored by All Is Brawl mods), but felt the need come forward now after hearing that Lugo has not altered his behaviour in any way, and continues to harass women in the scene. When ESH alsked why she thought nobody listened at the time, Wajda's response was depressingly predictable in what was a closed scene for a long time.

“Back 5 years ago, All is Brawl was known for unnecessary drama in blogs, and the mods were really strict about preventing that. When I wrote my blog, immediately mods worked to make the blog private, although a lot of people saw it before that happened, Wajda told ESH today. “I was the only person to have spoken up about it at the time, so people were likely sceptical about it.” Sceptical or not, it seems amazing that such serious allegations could be swept under the carpet without further enquiry, especially by a group ostensibly focussed on the well-being of the scene.

Although she was 14 at the time Lugo contacted her, it’s important to note Emily is not accusing Lugo of that today, but simply that he continues to harass and abuse women in the Smash scene overall. “None of the girls recently harassed are underage from my understanding. But I can confirm he did so to me, and a couple others in the past. Age aside, harassment is unacceptable towards anyone and I will not stand for it." There is some good news to come of Wajda's revelations at least in the maturation of the response from the wider scene. "This time around, I'd say the responses are overwhelming. I'm glad my story influenced Nyani to share hers as well.  Her story was super personal, and I can't respect her enough for putting herself out there to prevent anymore harassment to others. We hope that the news will continue to spread and that we continue to receive support on the matter."

Haley ‘Nyani’ Jones, a transgender member of the Smash community, alleges that Strife not only outed her without permission, but went on to inappropriately contact her after the fact in a manner that made it clear he ‘knew her secret’. Nyani told ESH this morning that she had been warned already about Lugo’s behaviour prior to her interactions, but even so wasn’t prepared for the jarringly personal and invasive nature of the messages he sent. “The most jarring interaction,Ii suppose, would have to be the message I got from him on the way to Guts 3, just saying, ‘How's HRT (hormone replacement therapy)?’ I'd literally never spoken a sentence to him, so it came completely out of left field. It was like he was saying, ‘I know, watch your back’, and it was honestly very threatening.” She went on to tell ESH that even this one conversation had a profound effect on her desire to speak to, or be in the same place as Lugo. “So after that, every time we were at an event together, I avoided him as best I could. I think he knew I didn't want him getting anywhere near me, so he didn't.”

Nyani believes the negative impact on the Smash community could be much wider if these allegations are again swept under the carpet, especially with Strife considered a community leader. “If someone who the community was viewing as a respectable individual is behaving this way, it's obviously going to scare some people away.I mean this guy operates the largest tournament and series in North America.” She admits to being blown away by the overwhelmingly positive and supportive response to her revelations though, and says that Strife is a more isolated case. “I've even got a few [messages] from some LGBT players telling me that my coming forward has helped them to feel like there's a place for them in this community. And even if that's all the good that comes out of this, that's worth it to me.” However, it was the comment from Mark ‘Chibo’ Korsak, who ESH spoke to today that really reveals the extent of Strife’s alleged issue, and also the fact it was common knowledge in some areas.

“It's interesting because at least a lot about what I've said isn't known solely by me. A lot of it involved other people who have known, or I may have discussed it with certain people who I was close to. Countless people have their own Strife stories, but they were either long forgotten or never made it too big. I think what's happened recently is that Smash has grown so much, even over just the last year, that we have a new generation of Smashers that don't know any of this, and are blind to these issues.”

“To them, there is nothing wrong with Apex and the person behind it. It's time we educate them, however I believe that we've also grown mature enough to realize that this isn't an issue with the Smash community, but instead a single person. I'm confident we can move past this with the right knowledge onto bigger and better things and grow together.”

Almost as if to confirm that Strife’s behaviour was an open secret, Chibo admits that Strife had been warned before. “I personally feel disappointed in him. I know he has had his issues, but this pattern of harassment on others is inexcusable. We've given him multiple outs, excused him for years, and yet this has always continued. It's when his actions affect others, especially those that are close to me, is when I truly had a big issue with him.”

At this point Lugo has not given any comment on the issues raised, and the same is true of his colleagues at Apex as they undoubtedly work out what is the best method of damage limitation, but perhaps the most worrying aspect so far is the fact it seems like a number of people in the scene were already aware of the allegations, and had continued to work with and support Lugo despite that. If Smash is to reach even the level of a semi-professional eSport these issues cannot be ignored, and while it is important to wait and confirm the evidence before condemning someone who has done much for the scene, Apex cannot be supported in good conscience if Lugo cannot prove his innocence for this writer at least. The event can survive without Lugo, but maybe not with him if he cannot refute these claims.

 

 

ESports Heaven attempted to contact Apex partners Nintendo, Gunnar, Twitch, ScrewAttack and Elgato Gaming, but so far only Elgato have responded to say they won’t be commenting at this time. Apex staff members and Lugo himself are also refusing to comment at this time.

Apex organiser Alex Strife faces sexual harassment allegations

CaptainTim 2015-01-20 03:24:20

The old phrase ‘it never rains but it pours’ seems pretty apposite right now in the world of competitive Smash, and with the biggest tournament in the history of Melee on the near horizon it looks as though we’re set for another brown deluge. Although Jonathan ‘Alex Strife’ Lugo is no stranger to controversy, the latest round of allegations against him are far more serious in nature than those we’ve seen in the past, and a man with a penchant for threatening to walk away from the scene when things don’t go his way might just find himself run out of town if he can’t refute what are some sinister claims about his behaviour.

Overnight allegations broke regarding Lugo that appear to show his behaviour toward under-age girls as inappropriate to say the least, and the supporting evidence is both varied and seemingly verifiable. A post on reddit from a user called ‘EmilyKiwi’, real name Emily Wajda, went up earlier today, detailing an alleged inappropriate interaction herself and Lugo when she was 14. The poster herself covered the incident in a blog five or so years ago (which she alleges was censored by All Is Brawl mods), but felt the need come forward now after hearing that Lugo has not altered his behaviour in any way, and continues to harass women in the scene.

“Back 5 years ago, All is Brawl was known for unnecessary drama in blogs, and the mods were really strict about preventing that. When I wrote my blog, immediately mods worked to make the blog private, although a lot of people saw it before that happened, Wajda told ESH today. “I was the only person to have spoken up about it at the time, so people were likely sceptical about it.” Sceptical or not, it seems amazing that such serious allegations could be swept under the carpet without further enquiry, especially by a group ostensibly focussed on the well-being of the scene.

Although she was 14 at the time Lugo contacted her, it’s important to note Emily is not accusing Lugo of that today, but simply that he continues to harass and abuse women in the Smash scene overall. “None of the girls recently harassed are underage from my understanding. But I can confirm he did so to me, and a couple others in the past. Age aside, harassment is unacceptable towards anyone and I will not stand for it.”

Haley ‘Nyani’ Jones, a transgender member of the Smash community, alleges that Strife not only outed her without permission, but went on to inappropriately contact her after the fact in a manner that made it clear he ‘knew her secret’.

Nyani told ESH this morning that she had been warned already about Lugo’s behaviour prior to her interactions, but even so wasn’t prepared for the jarringly personal and invasive nature of the messages he sent. “The most jarring interaction,Ii suppose, would have to be the message I got from him on the way to Guts 3, just saying, ‘Hows HRT?’ Id literally never spoken a sentence to him, so it came completely out of left field. It was like he was saying, ‘I know, watch your back’, and it was honestly very threatening.” She went on to tell ESH that even this one conversation had a profound effect on her desire to speak to, or be in the same place as Lugo. “So after that, every time we were at an event together, I avoided him as best I could. I think he knew I didnt want him getting anywhere near me, so he didnt.”

Nyani believes the impact on the Smash community could be much wider if these, especially with Strife considered a community leader. “If someone who the community was viewing as a respectable individual is behaving this way, Its obviously going to scare some people away.I mean this guy operates the largest tournament and series in North America. Theres a good reason that until now, i did my very best to hide the fact that I was transgender from the Smash community.”

She admits to being blown away by the overwhelmingly positive and supportive response to her revelations though, and says that Strife is a more isolated case. “Ive even got a few [messages] from some LGBT players telling me that my coming forward has helped them to feel like theres a place for them in this community. And even if thats all the good that comes out of this, thats worth it to me.” However, it was the comment from Mark ‘Chibo’ Korsak, who ESH spoke to a few minutes ago, that really reveals the extent of Strife’s alleged issue, and also the fact it was common knowledge in some areas.

“Its interesting because at least a lot about what Ive said isnt known solely by me. A lot of it involved other people who have known, or I may have discussed it with certain people who I was close to. Countless people have their own Strife stories, but they were either long forgotten or never made it too big. I think whats happened recently is that Smash has grown so much, even over just the last year, that we have a new generation of Smashers that dont know any of this, and are blind to these issues.”

“To them, there is nothing wrong with Apex and the person behind it. Its time we educate them, however I believe that weve also grown mature enough to realize that this isnt an issue with the Smash community, but instead a single person. Im confident we can move past this with the right knowledge onto bigger and better things and grow together.”

Almost as if to confirm that Strife’s behaviour was an open secret, Chibo admits that Strife had been warned before. “I personally feel disappointed in him. I know he has had his issues, but this pattern of harassment on others is inexcusable. Weve given him multiple outs, excused him for years, and yet this has always continued. Its when his actions affect others, especially those that are close to me, is when I truly had a big issue with him.”

At this point Lugo has not given any comment on the issues raised, and the same is true of his colleagues at Apex as they undoubtedly work out what is the best method of damage limitation, but perhaps the most worrying aspect so far is the fact it seems like a number of people in the scene were already aware of the allegations, and had continued to work with and support Lugo despite that. If Smash is to reach even the level of a semi-professional eSport these issues cannot be ignored, and while it is important to wait and confirm the evidence before condemning someone who has done much for the scene, Apex cannot be supported in good conscience if Lugo cannot prove his innocence for this writer at least. The event can survive without Lugo, but maybe not with him anymore.

 

 

ESports Heaven attempted to contact Apex partners Nintendo, Gunnar, Twitch, ScrewAttack and Elgato Gaming, but so far only Elgato have responded to say they won’t be commenting at this time.

Stay tuned for all the updates and breaking news on the story

 

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