One of the largest annual esports events in the fighting game community and reportedly the largest LAN event in the world, the Evolution Championship Series (Evo) has been held every year since 1996. However, the 2020 event, already disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, will now no longer go ahead after sexual misconduct allegations against co-founder and president of Evo, Joey Cuellar.
At the height of the pandemic, the Evo tournament organisers convened in May to decide what to do with the tournament and they agreed that it would be switched from its standard LAN format, to an entirely online event and that it would now takes place, across a series of weekends, starting this past Saturday July 4, and going through until August 2.
Accusations on Social Media
However, back in June 2020, a wave of allegations and accusations regarding stories of harassment, assault and bullying by some high profile streaming personalities, company employees and esports players, hit social media.
That initial trickle of complaints quickly expanded to become something more of a deluge of complaints with hundreds of accusations posted online. The movement began to grow and they sought to bring about a change in the community through a blackout of the Twitch streaming service, seeing as Twitch is the main platform for many of the streamers and individuals that are accused in the allegations.
However, in the past week there were further accusations against those specifically in the fighting game community. Former NRG Esports Super Smash Bros competitor Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada was cut loose from his contract with NRG after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor.
Then on Wednesday the first of what would become several allegations were made against Joey “MrWizard” Cuellar.
Placed On Administrative Leave
Just 24-hours after the first allegations were made, Evo posted on its Twitter feed that Cuellar would be placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation to be conducted by a third-party. Similarly, Cuellar issued an apology on Twitter the same day stating:
“I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone. I was young and reckless and did things I am not proud of. I have been growing and maturing over the past 20 years, but that doesn’t excuse anything. All I have been trying to do is become a better person. Once again, I’m truly sorry.”
Players and Developers Desert Evo
If this was a move to mitigate the damage, it did not work. Over the next few days a number of key players, including the five-time Evo champion SonicFox confirmed that they would not be participating in the event. While developers Campcom (Street Fighter), NetherRealm (Mortal Kombat) and Bandai Namco (Dragon Ball FighterZ and Tekken) all announced that they would not be allowing their games to be contested at Evo and expressed their support for the victims making the allegations.
Perhaps realising their error, Evo had issued a new statement by 9pm on Thursday which saw them confirm they had severed all ties with Joey Cuellar and they were working towards him being removed from the company as quickly as possible, with Tony Cannon taking over as CEO.
The company also confirmed that Evo Online, as the 2020 event had become called, was cancelled and that players will receive refunds, while the company would make a donation of the equivalent of the proceeds to Project HOPE.
As of Friday, Evo issued a statement to ESPN stating “With all that unfolded yesterday, the entire team is taking the time necessary to reflect, listen and thoughtfully determine the next steps.”
What those steps are remains to be seen.