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.