NA orgs to give players choice to compete in either EPL or PEA league

Thumbnail image courtesy of Professional Esports Association

In the wake of an open letter from players protesting the Professional eSports Association's alleged plan to boycott the upcoming ESL Pro League season, Immortals CEO and PEA Player Relations Committee Member Noah Whinston has announced that players will be given the decision to participate in either the PEA's league or EPL.

"I sympathize with the players’ sentiments around not feeling more included in the decision-making process and I acknowledge that we could and should have done better. That’s why, in good faith, we’re going to give this decision to them," he said. "We’ll arrange a meeting with all of the players ASAP to discuss this and answer questions, so that they can decide as a unified body whether they want to participate in EPL or PEA next season."

RELATED: 25 players speak out against NA team owners' plan to exclude ESL Pro League

While Whinston says PEA will not be an exclusive league, concerns over over-saturation in the CS:GO scene led PEA to attempt a compromise with WESA, which represents the EU teams of EPL, wherein EPL would leave North America but the top four teams from PEA and EPL would meet in a cross-Atlantic championship. According to Whinston, WESA declined the offer. Because of that, Whinston says that PEA are unwilling to throw their hat in an already crowded scene and further curtail the time their players have to stream and meet sponsor obligations.

"I believe every author of the player letter wants to participate in the PEA league, as well as EPL. Unfortunately, that option is not on the table," he said. "If the only option for the PEA is to lose money by functioning as yet another year-round CSGO league, we’ll instead devote the PEA league’s resources to other game titles where over-saturation is less of a problem."

While Whinston admits PEA could have done better including players in the decision-making process, orgs ultimately reserve final say in what events and tournaments their players attend.

RELATED: TSM part ways with sgares following release of player-signed open letter

"It would not make sense for a roster of players to decide what tournaments to participate in, while representing the organization and emblazoned with its intellectual property," he said. "Perhaps the most surprising part of the player letter is that this basic fact is treated as new information. Athletes have always been part of the conversation surrounding the events in which a team decides to compete, but the power to make a final decision always resides with the organization."

However, he insists that players would not be getting the short end of the stick, providing a detailed breakdown of how PEA's $750,000 prize pool plus each players minimum guaranteed profit of $31,250 and health insurance would make up for sitting out EPL.

"The addition of $250,000 in minimum guaranteed profits (MG) will provide a strong baseline of compensation for players and a preview of what’s coming in the future when the PEA league is operating profitably," Whinston said. "Teams at the bottom will more than double their compensation and even the top teams will see significant compensation bumps."

You can read the Whinston's letter in its entirety here.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

PEA representatives respond to concerns about league exclusivity dispute

Thumbnail image courtesy of Professional Esports Association

Following the news that Team SoloMid would drop Sean "sgares" Gares in the days after he and 24 other CS:GO players signed an open letter to PEA team owners that protested a decision that would bar them from playing in the upcoming season of ESL Pro League, the CS:GO community exploded in a frenzy of speculation and accusations which prompted a series of open letters and responses.

After the release of an open letter penned by Immortals CEO Noah Whinston, written on behalf of the PEA, members from various organizations and the CS:GO community commented on the issues that were brought up as a real-time debate took over the Twitter-sphere.

Related: NA orgs to give players choice to compete in either EPL or PEA league

One of the topics that was hotly debated centered around the PEA's decision to let its member players chose to compete in either the EPL or PEA league. In an interview with theScore esports, Whinston said that PEA has yet to make a decision regarding what will happen if a majority of PEA players choose to play in the ESL Pro League instead of PEA's league, but did say that "At the end of the day, the players will either participate in one league or the other."

When asked if there were any plans to expand the players' voting power within PEA, PEA commissioner Jason Katz told theScore esports that player participation could grow in the future.

"PEA is an evolving concept, as are all new businesses," Katz said. "If the players decide to participate, we’re always open to conversations about how to improve every aspect of the business."

As for how the organization would respond if new North American leagues were to arise considering concerns oversaturation, Katz said that PEA is open to working with other NA leagues. He added that PEA has signed a two-year agreement with the ECS and that negotiations with ELEAGUE are still ongoing.

"Everything depends upon the specific facts of any development, so if there is a way to work with any partner to the benefit of all of the stakeholders, we’re open to conversations about it," he said.

When asked whether or not Immortals' roster had spoken to him prior to signing the letter, Whinston said that they didn't but added that he "fully supports their right to select a collective representative to speak on their behalf" and believes there's room for improvement regarding player communication. Whinston also sits on the PEA's player relations committee, and told Team Liquid's Spencer "Hiko" Martin over Twitter that the committee exists for team owners to discuss how to better communicate with their players. No players currently sit on the committee.

"We need to do better," Whinston said. "The organizations will all work harder to keep open lines of communication and develop closer ties with all of the players."

Related: SirScoots, Noah Whinston address PEA controversy

In a separate set of responses, Katz told Slingshot Esport's Jarek "DeKay" Lewis that the decisions regarding league exclusivity were made after sponsors and broadcast partners expressed concerns with the state of CS:GO's ecosystem.

"These were not concerns that had been expressed to us previously to the same degree," Katz told DeKay. "The organizations always have consulted players about their commitments, but esports is highly fluid and its realities are ever-changing. But to say that “things change” in esports is an understatement!"

Katz also told DeKay that PGL will be running the first season of PEA's league, and that the organization still aims to hold a trans-atlantic championship, though the World Esports Association turned down PEA's offer during their negotiations.

Related: CS:GO community reacts to TSM dropping sgares and PEA open letter

Finally, Katz responded to a statement in PEA's open letter that mentioned that if the PEA owners felt that their only option was to run yet another year-round CS:GO league, the organization would shift resources to other game titles that are less over-saturated. Katz did not give any information about what games the organization would be interested in, but once again said the decision effectively lies with the players.

"As we’ve said repeatedly, participating in three online leagues on top of all the other commitments just doesn’t make sense and if the players feel so strongly about Pro League, then they can play in it; we can’t make a huge investment of effort and money into something which benefits organizations and players if it’s just more over-saturation," Katz told DeKay.

"The goal was always to give players more voice and include them in a more meaningful way. By allowing the players to choose which league they’d prefer to participate in, we feel we’re behaving in a way consistent with those objectives. A core principle of PEA is to add value to the scene and, if that isn’t going to work out in CSGO, then we’re excited to invest in other game titles to add value to those communities."

Counter Logic Gaming owner George "Hotshot" Georgallidis released his own, separate response, where he answered questions sent to him over Twitter. Hotshot espoused the values of limiting the number of leagues players participate in, and trying to cut out online leagues as they devalue other leagues, as well as burn out players.

"I’ve seen the guys get burnt out traveling all over the world from official matches to boot camp and back to matches," Hotshot said. "I came into the scene as a player in League of Legends, although that system is not perfect there are pieces to that system that are fantastically done that CS:GO Leagues should mimic. As a player, it’s definitely more cohesive and less draining to be apart of the structure LCS has created."

Related: WESA responds to PEA open letter, says they are still 'interested in finding a solution'

Hotshot says that he sees PEA as a way to create leverage for teams and players, a way to increase the bargaining power when negotiation with other, larger esports organizations. However, he admits that the team owners did not necessarily communicate that to the players effectively.

"We as owners, have the right legally as well as pretty much every owner in any sport to decide where our team plays," Hotshot said. "It gives us leverage in negotiating what our next steps should be. Right now what is happening is that the players demand that they have the right to decide where they play regardless of what the contract says, regardless of what owners believe best for their businesses, regardless of what even the leading player agency and law firm recommends as 'just'."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Teams owners speak out regarding $30,000 contract dispute with ELEAGUE

Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / ELEAGUE

G2 Esports has joined the list of teams claiming they are owed extra money from ELEAGUE for their appearance in ELEAGUE Season 1.

On Tuesday, Slingshot's Jarek "DeKay" Lewis reported that six teams: Team SoloMid, Cloud9, Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming, NRG Esports and compLexity Gaming, are all alleging that ELEAGUE owes them $30,000 each in appearance fees.

Now, G2 Esports owner Carlos "ocelote" Rodriguez has stated on Twitter that G2 and its CS:GO players chose to share ELEAGUE's appearance fees with the understanding that it was separate from the prize money. G2 later learned this was not the case, and ocelote says the org chose to give the appearance fees to their players as if it was prize money.

Team Liquid co-owner Victor Goossens also took to Twitter, stating that he believed most teams understood that the $30,000 in minimum prize money was separate from the $30,000 minimum appearance fee for playing in the tournament.

However, FlipSid3 Tactics founder Hector Rosario responded to Goossens by stating that FlipSid3 did not believe this to be the case, and understood the contract to stipulate that the last-place teams received $30,000 total.

According to DeKay's report, ELEAGUE's contracts stated that teams would receive a minimum of $30,000 in appearance fees, while the teams believed that that $30,000 would be paid out on top of prize money. theScore esports has not been able to independently verify the details of this contract.

In a statement to theScore esports, a spokesperson for ELEAGUE said that all teams have been paid for ELEAGUE Season 1.

“All teams have been compensated per our agreements with them," the spokesperson stated. "We value our relationships with all teams and will continue to provide a best-in-class experience for them.”

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reginald addresses sgares controversy with Thorin

Thumbnail image courtesy of TSM

Team SoloMid owner and Professional eSports Association co-founder Andy "Reginald" Dinh sat down with Duncan "Thorin" Shields to share his thoughts on the ongoing PEA-EPL controversy, as well as his decision to release Sean "sgares" Gares.

TSM released sgares earlier this month, less than a week after he officially joined the team, following a Dec. 21 open letter signed by sgares and 24 other PEA member players that alleged the organization was trying to push ESL Pro League out of North America. On Dec. 22, sgares leaked chat logs in which Reginald appeared to tell the 28-year-old player that he had hurt the TSM brand by signing the letter and by convincing his teammates to sign. sgares' leaks fueled a social media campaign under the hashtag #playerrights, demanding better treatment of the PEA players.

Later that day, Reginald posted a response to sgares, in which he said he felt betrayed by the team's #playerrights Tweets, and accused sgares of manipulating his teammates into signing the open letter without reading it first. Reginald shared chat logs that appeared to involve Hunter “SicK” Mims and Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan, in which the two players said they did not read the letter before it was posted, and sgares was their primary connection with the movement.

On Dec. 23, in response to Reginald, TSM player Skyler “Relyks” Weaver released a statement on behalf of the team claiming none of them had been manipulated by sgares into signing the letter.

RELATED: TSM part ways with sgares following release of player-signed open letter

Speaking to Thorin, Reginald admitted he reacted emotionally after seeing the #playerrights Tweets from his players and that he should have given the situation more thought. He told Thorin he regretted saying sgares had "manipulated" players to sign the letter, but had come to that conclusion based upon the conversations he had with other players.

Reginald says he was under pressure at the time he made the accusation, because the #playerrights campaign on social media had reached the team's sponsors and resulted in several pulling their funding.

"I reached out to Sean and I wanted him to clarify and say this isn't about player rights, this is about us not wanting to play in PEA and replacing EPL," Regi said. "I wanted to clear that up because the #playerrights things led to sponsors not funding our CS:GO team anymore really quickly and that actually financially hurt our company. Not just branding-wise, it financially hurt our company."

He said that despite the players' claim in the open letter that they had always been given the choice of which tournaments to participate in, sgares agreed to give up the right to choose tournaments in return for a higher salary during his contract negotiations. "He agreed to that term, he asked to be paid more, and then he refused to do what he had promised, right?" Reginald said. "With any contract that you do with anyone, or any job you do, there are certain services that you have to do as a contractor or as a player."

In a response to the interview on Reddit, sgares denied that he gave up his appearance rights in return for a higher salary during contract negotiations with TSM. In his account, appearance rights came up only after his salary was already finalized. He also said that he negotiated the contract with TSM CS:GO manager Derrick Truong, rather than Reginald.

He maintains that releasing the open letter was the wrong way for the players to negotiate with their owners, because the public conflict damaged the teams' business interests.

"Leveraging the public in the way they did just hurt everyone," he said. "It hurt the organization, it hurt advertisers, it hurts investors looking into the scene. People are not gonna to want to invest in the scene when players act that way."

RELATED: PEA representatives respond to concerns about league exclusivity dispute

The 24-year-old team owner said the hostility of the community has shaken his faith that the PEA league can succeed. "I personally feel like the PEA is such a big investment from the owners, where it's going to be such a long-term investment anyways, and if the community is that volatile and the players are that volatile, it's not worth it actually to host the PEA tournament," he said.

"And this is actually my opinion, not the PEA's opinion ... I feel like if the community is going to encourage players to break contract, encourage players to not do the work and services they promise, then it sets a really bad precedent."

Reginald claimed that if sgares and the other players had approached him and the PEA owners privately, he would have been open to letting them play in EPL. He said he would have kept sgares on the team if he'd apologized for the Tweet and for hurting the team's sponsors.

However, he said that despite the loss of sgares and the team's poor performances in 2016, TSM is still committed to the scene and building its own roster from the ground up.

"I think that CS:GO is really valuable if you're able to perform on the top end, right?" he said. "And I think that's the goal, is to be able to get to that point eventually and do it based on our own merits, versus just buying the best team for a certain period of time."

To watch the full interview, click here.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

Stewie2k on his parents: 'They've seen the beauty of esports'

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One year ago, Jake "Stewie2k" Yip was signed to Cloud9's CS:GO team. To coincide with that anniversary, he opened up Sunday about how the early stages of his esports career had a negative effect on the relationship with his parents.

"When I played in the [10 mans] til it ended, I couldn't even wake up for school. I would skip school and say I'm sick. It became a consistent thing and of course my grades went down," Stewie2k said in a TwitLonger. "Eventually the dean told me that I need to start coming to school or else I'd have to transfer so instead I made my own choice to transfer.

"I'm sure you guys can imagine how my mom reacted. She was angry, took my computer away, but I would always somehow convince her to give it back."

Stewie2k's situation did not improve as he continued to skip classes at his new school and was eventually forced to transfer schools again.

"My dad never gets angry, but when he does it's just crazy rage. He scolded me telling me that I need to be successful or else my future would look really dull," Stewie2k said. "He lectured me about how I'm making terrible decisions in my life, but as much as I wanted to explain to him I knew he wouldn't understand. He never saw the streams, the free travels, or the competitions that I saw.

"We've had private conversations where he's forced me to promise him that I would put school as a priority, but I knew that I couldn't. I've eavesdropped in some of the conversations that my parents had about me during this time and it was just unbearable to just believe."

Stewie2k eventually got the break that he needed and was signed to Cloud9, but the damage done to the relationship with his parents still needed time to heal.

"The second I signed this contract, I moved down to the C9 house with nothing said to my parents. So I guess you can say when I left we ended on a bad note," Stewie2k said. "However over time when I was gone from home, they've seen the beauty of eSports. They've seen me on TBS, be successful on stage, and raising a trophy.

"So now of the course of time, they've grown to support me and know that it's been a dream for me."

Although Stewie2k is currently living the dream, his story is one that comes with some caveats, according to former Counter-Strike pro and analyst Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen.

Stewie2k also noted that the esports landscape has changed since he had his start, there are other paths that players can take to achieve their own esports dreams.

"For all the people who are an aspiring pro player, you don't have to take the route I took," Stewie2k said. "Back then there were no systems that gave exposures. I took the route where I dropped everything, dedicated myself to CS, and only wanted to climb the ladder as fast as possible. There are so many ways to get recognition nowadays.

"If you have the skill & the mentality, people will notice it. Rank S has become a thing where people will receive recognition."

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

Cloud9, OpTic Gaming to play at IEM Katowice 1d ago

Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming will be representing North America at the IEM Season XI World Championships this March.

The two teams join, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Astralis and SK Gaming at the tournament. IEM Katowice will run from March 1-5 in Katowice, Poland, and will feature a $250,000 prize pool.

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