Recently Riot Games banned Renegades’ co-owner Chris Badawi from ownership of an LCS team until 2017 for violating the league’s tampering rules in regards to professional players contracted with other organizations. I wanted to offer the community an explanation of the state of affairs leading to this ban from our organization’s perspective and illuminate our plans for the future.
Mr. Badawi began looking into potential League of Legends team ownership in late 2014, and initially sought to purchase Team Liquid Academy. He spent a brief period of time in the Team Liquid house to learn the ropes of ownership from an established organization, but his bid was rejected as the squad became Team Gravity. Mr. Badawi then sought to assemble a new team to compete in the ranked fives ladder with the hope of qualifying for the Challenger Series (NA CS).
In early 2015, Mr. Badawi began seeking players for his team. As a newcomer to the realm of eSports, he made mistakes out of ignorance when initially approaching players, including the incident in February when he approached Yuri “Keith” Jew about joining his team prior to contacting Steve “Liquid112” Arhancet. Mr. Arhancet informed Mr. Badawi of the nature of the regulations against poaching and tampering, though Mr. Badawi was not spoken to by Riot officials regarding his communication with Keith until May. Mr. Badawi continued negotiations through Mr. Arhancet at this stage, though no agreement was ultimately reached regarding Keith’s acquisition for the new team since Team Liquid wished to keep him as a substitute for the main roster. At this time, Mr. Badawi contacted Riot officials at his volition regarding contract enforcement regulations and was told by Riot that amateur teams were not held to any ruleset. The formation of the new team continued with other players, including the signings of Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo, Aleksei “AlexIch” Ichetovkin, and Maria “Remilia” Creveling to form the core of the new roster.
On April 22nd, Mr. Badawi held a private conversation with Diego “Quas” Ruiz, during which they discussed Quas’ contract and possible options for his future, but did not encourage him to break his current contract. To my knowledge Mr. Badawi never offered Quas a contract for his team and since the only evidence is hearsay, I have no way of verifying this fact. Regardless, I do believe that this action crossed an ethical line, even if Mr. Badawi’s intentions lay in the interest of the player. As an advocate for player’s rights and opportunities, Mr. Badawi has spoken out on this subject previously, such as in this article by the Daily Dot. We agree that the poaching and tampering rules currently skew in favor of the teams and at the expense of the players, but that does not excuse his behavior in light of the current ruleset for LCS teams.
I seriously contemplated involvement in the team after meetings with Mr. Badawi at the Mid-Season Invitational in Tallahassee. I knew I wanted to take a greater role within a team as a larger career plan to gradually transition out of casting, but was uncertain as to whether I would use venture capital to found my own team or accept an invitation to join an existing organization, since I had several possible offers. I became aware of the impending investigation regarding his conversation with Quas, but believed the incident to be relatively innocuous since no poaching occurred and Mr. Badawi had settled on a different top lane player, Oleksii “RF Legendary” Kuziuta.
By late May I was convinced that working with Mr. Badawi on Misfits, which I pushed to rebrand to Renegades, was the right decision for me. We share ideals on how professional players should be treated, dedicating as much money as possible to the long-term growth of the team, and a desire to create a happy and healthy environment under our aegis. From this point forward I worked primarily on securing further sponsorship through my agency and my own connections in conjunction with acquiring a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team. I had no contact with the League of Legends players until after our public announcement that I was joining the organization. Furthermore, I have never approached a player or a player’s manager about joining the LoL team nor made any decisions regarding the LoL roster. My work with Renegades up until this point has purely been in CS:GO, branding, management structure, sponsorship, and press releases.
After the conclusion of the Riot investigation, Mr. Badawi was banned from team ownership until 2017. Obviously this came as quite a surprise to us since previous incidents regarding poaching, which carries considerably more weight than tampering, were met with fines and short suspensions. I agree wholeheartedly with Riot that the prior infractions carried too mild a punishment given the need to enforce more stringent anti-poaching regulations, but we did not anticipate a blow of this severity even though the ban on Martin “Deficio” Lynge set a precedent. While it does not justify Mr. Badawi’s actions, no ruleset then existed to govern tampering or poaching by non-LCS teams. At the time of the incident with Quas, poaching rules extended only to interactions between LCS teams, as defined in Section 10.2.13 of the LCS rules, and not to prospective LCS owners. Furthermore, Mr. Badawi’s minority ownership stake in Team Dragon Knights (TDK) began subsequent to their qualification into the LCS. It was only after May 22nd, approximately one month after Mr. Badawi’s conversation with Quas, that Riot instituted a new policy for potential LCS owners that bound them to the rules even if uncontracted, which reads as follows in Section 3.1:
“Any person that petitions for ownership into the LCS can be denied admission if they are found to have not acted with the professionalism sought by the LCS. Someone seeking admission into the LCS must meet the highest standards of character and integrity. Candidates who have violated this rule set or attempted to act against the spirit of these rules, even if not formally contracted to the rule set, can be denied admission into the LCS.”
I believe that this rule will help in ensuring that future LCS owners behave in a fashion that increases professionalism in the growing eSports market, and I support Riot’s increasing clarity involving all levels of competition in League of Legends. As such, Renegades accepts Mr. Badawi’s temporary ban from the LCS as a necessary step forward in the greater interests of the industry.
Renegades believes in empowering players and we continue to seek methods to make our players aware of outside opportunities, even though current LCS regulations do not require them. As one of the core principles of the team, we had already included the following clause in our contracts so that our players will always be aware of their career options:
“The Company agrees that in the event any other eSports organization contacts the Company, including its employees and agents, in order to inquire about signing Player, the Company shall disclose such communications to Player in a reasonably timely manner. The Company shall not unreasonably withhold consent for Player to discuss employment opportunities with such organizations.”
In essence, we view one of the problems within eSports from the player’s rights perspective is the inability to know if an outside team seeks their services. Our clause means that the managers and owners of other organizations may come to us and we, as Renegades owners, are legally obligated to inform them of the opportunity. Mr. Badawi and I both seek to implement clauses that help our players make the most of their careers, even if their best interests lie with another team.
Moving forward, Mr. Badawi will remain co-owner through the duration of the NA CS and we will evaluate his position within the organization if qualification for the LCS occurs. I continue to want to work with Mr. Badawi in spite of this incident.
We offer our apologies to Team Liquid and their owner Steve Arhancet for any trouble caused by our organization. We hope to conduct ourselves with integrity and prove ourselves trustworthy to the industry and our fans in the future.
–Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles