Evil Geniuses have been burning under the magnifying glass for the past few weeks in the premier esports titles. They’ve been the target of multiple reports from Richard Lewis, Duncan “Thorin” Shields and have been the focus of podcasts from The Last Free Nation. Their failures and misdeeds in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2 and League of Legends have been extensively exposed and explained by the aforementioned figures and, in Valve games no repercussions are expected. The developer plays a passive role and does not intervene except in the most exceptional situations. The Kyle "Danny" Sakimaki case in LoL though, is a different story. It is a matter of following a precedent that has been set by Riot, and how that precedent will likely not be upheld now that Evil Geniuses are in the defendant stand.
This article will not go deep into explaining the mistreatment of Danny by EG or any other story that they’ve been the antagonist of, as that has already been done.
To understand the precedent that we’re addressing in this article, we need to travel back a few years. Riot has been issuing serious rulings for some time now, and there isn’t a feasible way to integrate them all into this article coherently. Situations like what happened with Meet Your Makers, Team Renegades and others have been reported on and happened during a very different time in LoL. So, instead of going back so far, let’s just return to 2019, when the LCS was already franchised and the EU LCS had become the LEC.
Echo Fox is the only organization that has actually left the LCS since franchising began. They were forced out by Riot after an investor who had made racist comments towards a colleague refused to leave the company. This is the first precedent being set that is relevant to the case happening now with Evil Geniuses, who were the exact team who acquired EF's spot.
Jacob Wolf wrote a great article on the parallels (and key differences) between this case and the one we'll tackle next - The TSM-Reginald debacle. In this same article Wolf points out how the ultimate reason that kicked Echo Fox out of the LCS was “a violation of the team participation agreement between the two parties”.
So there are two things to highlight here: Echo Fox were not removed due to the racist comments of one of their investors, but Chris Greeley, the LCS commissioner at that time posted a tweet on the Official LoL Esports page addressing that same issue and mentioning a possible “formal action that may adversely impact the future of Echo Fox in the LCS.” So, as per Wolf’s report, it would be much harder for Riot to be able to push EF out of the League due to the investor’s behavior, but punishment was coming regardless.
The TSM ruling is a much more recent (and similar) case to the one happening now with Evil Geniuses. Multiple reports came out on how TSM’s CEO, Andy “Reginal” Dinh was abusive towards employees. Cecilia D’Anastasio started the snowball with her report on Wired, and many others followed suit, like Mikhail Klementov at Washington Post’s Launcher.
What Reginald had done was not a big surprise to those who had been following TSM since 2013, when the organization would post videos on YouTube documenting the CEO’s abuse of his players (who were also his teammates at the time). He was accused of being a bully and using his “close connections to other esports team owners and professionals” to deter “current and former employees or players from pursuing accountability.”, as written by D’Anastasio.
A few months after Cecilia’s initial reporting, in July 13th 2022, Riot posts the official ruling at the Lol Esports website:
The reasons given for this conclusion were that the investigation led Riot to “believe that there was a pattern and practice of disparaging and bullying behavior exhibited by Dinh. This included verbally abusing pro players and TSM staff members and communicating in a demeaning and belittling manner.”
This, as pointed out by Riot themselves, breaks two LCS rules:
- TSM is fined $ 75, 000.
- Andy “Reginald” Dinh has to undergo sensitivity and executive training.
- Dinh is also put on probation for two years across the Riot ecosystem (not just LoL)
- “An independent monitor is being appointed to operate a tip-line and follow-through with regular check-ins with TSM League of Legends players.”
So here we have the first clear precedent being set in stone by Riot during the LCS franchising era: if you break the rules you will be heavily punished, no matter how big your organization is.
- 14.3.1- Profanity and Hate Speech. A Team Member may not use language that is obscene, foul, vulgar, insulting, threatening, abusive, libelous, slanderous, defamatory or otherwise offensive or objectionable; or promote or incite hatred or discriminatory conduct.
- 14.3.4- Harassment. Harassment is forbidden. Harassment is defined as systematic, hostile and repeated acts taking place over a considerable period of time, or a singular egregious instance, which is/are intended to isolate or ostracize a person and/or affect the dignity of the person.
A few months after this investigation and subsequent ruling. The Carlos “Ocelote” Rodriguez tweet happened. This is the most recent of the three mentioned cases and you likely know what happened already, but if you don’t, this Dexerto article by Carver Fisher is a pretty good summary of it.
Carlos posted the video with the Tate brothers and followed it up with a couple tweets doubling down on his stance on September 17th 2022. Less than a month later, on October 11th, Riot’s ruling was already out:
The rule that was highlighted was article 9.2.5 of the LEC rulebook: “Team Managers/Members may not give, make, issue, authorize or endorse any statement or action having, or designed to have, an effect prejudicial or detrimental to the best interest of the League, Riot Games or its affiliates, or League of Legends, as determined in the sole and absolute discretion of the League.”
And that was all, right?
- Carlos was “suspended from holding any managerial or operational position with a team or organization in a Riot-sanctioned competition, or participation therein until November 13, 2022.”
- Just like Dinh, Carlos Rodríguez was also “required to complete: (i) sensitivity training, and (ii) executive training”.
Not quite. That was all when it comes to official rulings; but, as it happens, negotiations for Valorant partnerships were undergoing as both of these rulings happened. Riot Games announced the 30 partnered teams on September 21st 2022. As you can see, this was just a week after the Carlos Rodriguez video was posted and a few months after the Reginald ruling.
Multiple reports came out surrounding G2’s absence from the Valorant list, and TSM’s is no less inconspicuous. G2 is the most prestigious European organization in the history of League of Legends and TSM represents the same thing to North America. Not having these two organizations partnering with Riot in their next big project seems like a punishment that was conveniently left out of the rulings. Evil Geniuses do have one, though.
The Evil Geniuses case isn’t completed yet. Dexerto’s Luís Mira has confirmed that Riot is investigating the case, and has actually been investigating it since “late 2022”.
All evidence from the aforementioned reports points to the mistreatment of Kyle “Danny” Sakimaki to the point of malnourishment, something that lasted for an extended period of time. Given the player’s tweets following the reports, his retirement from professional play is now confirmed. Esports players tend to have short careers, but a 19 year old retiring after playing a single year in LCS is not a usual case.
A crucial detail that is worth highlighting is also the fact that Riot bent the LCS rules
in favor of Evil Geniuses when the problems got to such a point that Danny refused to play the remainder of the playoffs.
There is a clear difference between the three previously mentioned cases and this one: there isn’t an immediate face to the problem. The Echo Fox investor who made his racist comments was acting by himself. Andy “Reginald” Dinh was the sole perpetrator of his actions and Carlos “Ocelote” Rodriguez posted the tweets on his personal Twitter page.
The mistreatment of Danny wasn’t at the hand of a single person, but of the management of the Evil Geniuses organization. You might argue that means you should address the “management” or “Evil Geniuses” as the culprits, but organizations have hierarchies for a reason. The higher-ups of the companies have a lot more power and, consequently, a lot more responsibility.
What happened at Evil Geniuses during her time as CEO falls on Nicole Lapointe Jameson’s lap, regardless of if she had any direct intervention on what happened to Danny.
The second person that falls in line is Lindsey “GamerDoc” Migliore, who was the Director of Performance for the entirety of 2022 at Evil Geniuses, and is now Senior Director of Gaming and Performance. She joined the organization as a “Wellness and Performance Consultant”. She quickly got promoted to Director of Performance in the EG org.
In an interview with Business Insider, Migliore mentioned that she “offers clinics and courses that can be tailored to individual players or teams. She says they usually involve a physical and mental warm up specific to a player's game, as well as stress-management tips for during a match and a cooldown for after. She also teaches a variety of strength and mobility exercises.”
This is a “licensed esports medicine physician” that was described by EG as someone who would “play a key role in Evil Geniuses' efforts to promote healthier esports.”, so what was she doing as Director of Performance while Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki was showing obvious signs of mental and physical issues for months on end?
Interestingly enough, Migliore's official website www.gamerdoc.net was taken down between the 1st and 4th of March 2023. Keep in mind, Thorin's video was posted on the 27th of February and Lewis' report went live on the 1st of March.
Thanks to the research done by my colleague Izento
(who has also written an article on this matter recently)
we're now aware of the publicly available information that Migliore's Medical Training License in the state of Washington D.C. expired in the 30th of June 2020
. According to her LinkedIn, Gamerdoc still lives in Washington and Seattle is where Evil Geniuses are based.
As a final yet important aside, in one of those "aged like milk" moments, John Jung, Evil Geniuses’ VP of Operations and Studio, addressed the G2 controversy in October in an article written by Digiday. The Danny case was already happening, but it wasn't public yet.
In that same interview, he says the following: “I don’t know that us versus G2 is necessarily the comparison, but I think all of us here at EG — I don’t know if I would really feel safe at any other org, because I know in my bones that something like what happened at G2 would never happen here.”
A precedent to be followed
The organization has to be punished, of course. TSM was also punished as an organization for letting their CEO run rampant and G2 lost their Valorant slot even though Carlos left the company.
The precedents have been set; Riot’s punishments go beyond the game where the issues happen. Evil Geniuses are a partnered organization in both LCS and Valorant Champions Tour. Nicole Lapointe Jameson and Lindsey “GamerDoc” Milgiore have a role in all EG teams across all their esports.
The question remains: what punishment can Riot make that would be in line with what was done to both G2 and TSM just last year? Will Riot follow the rules they set with the actions they took towards those two organizations, or will rules just be bent to EG’s favor as they were at the LCS Playoffs last summer?
Images courtesy of Evil Geniuses and Lol Esports Flickr.
Follow the author @Mushwrites