Philadelphia 76ers acquire Team Dignitas, Apex

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Team Dignitas

The Philadelphia 76ers' ownership group has acquired controlling stakes in both Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming and plan to merge the two under the Dignitas name, according to a press release from the organization Monday. The move makes the Sixers the first professional North American sports team to own an esports organization.

Dignitas managing director Michael O'Dell will continue with the new, Sixers-owned Dignitas as the team's president, while former Apex co-owner Michael Slan will serve as vice-president and general manager. Gaming executive and investor Greg Richardson will act as chairman of the new Dignitas organization.

The release states that "the Sixers intend to manage the day-to-day operations of Team Dignitas," including marketing and sponsorship strategies but also allocating resources to player development and wellness.

The newly-merged Dignitas inherits the League of Legends NA LCS spot retained by Apex Gaming after placing 7th in the NA LCS 2016 Summer Split.

Dignitas' Heroes of the Storm team is currently the strongest in Europe and will represent the region at that game's Fall Global Championship, set to take place at BlizzCon in Anaheim, CA, from Nov. 4-5. They also have a rapidly-improving Danish Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team, an Overwatch squad and a SMITE roster.

Dignitas has had over a decade of experience in the esports space, but O'Dell said that the arrangement gives the team a leg up over the competition in more than a few areas.

"This is a landmark day in eSports history and for this franchise. Entering into a partnership with such a strong organization will give us an undeniable advantage in attracting the world’s best players and an opportunity to compete at the highest level," he wrote. "Our connection to the legendary Philadelphia 76ers brand and business organization will be a differentiating factor for Team Dignitas as we enter the next phase of our development."

The press release states that the relationship between the two esports organizations and the Sixers was "fostered by" talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, also known as WME/IMG.

Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil said in the release that the acquisition of both the organization and personnel should provide the newly-merged Dignitas with the tools it needs to succeed.

“The attractiveness of this deal is as much about the people as it is the opportunity," he wrote. "Bringing together gaming industry luminaries including Greg Richardson, Michael O’Dell and David and Michael Slan puts us on track to build the most respected and dominant franchise in the eSports space, spur fan engagement and reimagine corporate sponsorship to create a vibrant, global e-arena where the greatest players in the world aspire to compete.”'

While the Sixers are the first professional North American sports organization to own an esports team, the flirtation with esports is not new for sports investors. Several European football clubs including FC Schalke have purchased esports teams, and two part-owners of the Sacramento Kings, as well as Shaquille O'Neal and Alex Rodriguez, have invested in esports organization NRG eSports.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Apex retained their NA LCS spot through the 2016 summer promotion tournament. While they did play in that tournament, it was to obtain their summer spot after the 2016 spring split. In fact, since Apex placed 7th in the summer split, they remain in the LCS without playing any relegation matches. theScore esports regrets the error.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

CS:GO players vs. LoL players: Who played more in 2016?

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Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports

It's no secret that CS:GO pros compete in more events than almost any other esports players, but how big is the gap? We took a look at 14 top CS:GO teams and 14 LoL teams that attended the 2016 World Championships to put it into perspective.

In 2016, the average high-performing CS:GO player played 219.71 Maps while LoL players averaged 104.64 games. In addition, the game-count for any team that made it to Worlds is markedly higher than teams that didn't qualify for the post-season.

It's difficult to meaningfully compare the total competitions CS:GO players competed in versus LoL players as CS:GO teams do have the freedom to participate in a large number of tournaments and qualifiers while LoL players are restricted to fewer, but longer-lasting, Riot-sanctioned events. To compensate for the discrepancy, we only compared the teams' Premier CS:GO event participation against the LoL team's total competitions. However, the discrepancy was still striking.

The average CS:GO player competed in 13.71 premier competitions in 2016 while the average LoL player participated in a third of that, at 4.43. For further context, CS:GO league finals and LoL seasonal playoffs were counted together with their respective regular seasons for the purposes of the infographic.

Additionally, without the rigid structure of the LCS circuit, CS:GO players have to travel significantly more as they attend LAN events all over the world throughout the year.

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

Laying down the law: Legal professionals on unions, arbitration courts and contracts

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Lonpicman / Wikimedia Commons

This is the second part of a two-part series. To check out the first part, click here.

Blackouts, sub-par equipment, unusable internet and a manager who wasn't paid for two months: these are just some of the issues Tainted Minds' former LoL roster dealt with before terminating their contracts, according to a Twitlonger from former player, Tristan "Cake" Côté-Lalumière. The AD carry also says he has not received full payment for December or Weeks 3-4 of the OPL spring split.

"The part that bothered me is that every single one of the issues we had could’ve been prevented if Tainted Minds listened to Nick and Fas [the team's coach and manager], who were literally telling them what was happening and how it could be fixed," Cake wrote. "Every times we tried to communicate with the organization, be it through Fas, Nick, or any Tainted Minds employee, it felt like talking to a brick wall. They kept promising us things would get fixed and gave us deadlines, which they NEVER respected."

Cake's sentiment was echoed in a Twitlonger from his teammate, Aaron "ChuChuZ" Bland, who says he took in his fellow dissenters for four weeks as their lawyer attempted to get Tainted Minds to acknowledge they breached contract and remove them from their official roster.

"It started getting really depressing in the house, every day felt like another fight on top of the ongoing discomforts of the house," he said of their last days in Tainted Minds' team house. "The packet loss issue was still going on, and players started considering leaving. The entire atmosphere of the house was crushed, we didn't know what to do."

To date, Tainted Minds have made no statement since announcing their new roster and stating that they would not release the former players.

'It's really tough to ask somebody who might have a year or two worth of playing to sit out for half or all of that time'

For many esports players trapped in legal disputes, filing suit simply isn't a realistic option. Not only can getting a lawyer be prohibitively expensive, but navigating international jurisdictions and a burgeoning field with few legal precedents would be a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone esports players in their late teens or early twenties.

While players on the high-end of the spectrum might be protected by big name organizations and their own social media clout, those on the lower end have no such recourse. So the question remains, what will it take to make those players less vulnerable to predatory individuals and shady orgs?

One solution some have suggested is for esports players to take a page from traditional sports and form player unions and associations. Through a formal union, players would be able to bargain collectively to ensure equitable treatment across teams, as well as pool their resources to pursue legal cases.

"If you can create that kind of organization and you spread it around enough players so that they can pay some dues or something to create some body, then that body can pursue more easily," attorney and FGC commentator David "ultradavid" Phillip Graham said.

"You can sort of spread around the costs of an expensive law suit in a way that would hopefully at least dissuade future teams from making that kind of mistake. If there were some body that had a lawyer on its payroll that could spend the time and money to look into this case, then maybe the next jerk who gets involved in esports who just wants to run away with money thinks twice."

In theory, starting an esports union should function the same way a normal union would. When concerned about conditions at their workplace, a group of employees can form an organizing committee and petition their fellow employees to sign union cards. If more than a certain percentage of the workplace sign the union cards, then the organizing committee can petition their jurisdiction's labor board to hold a formal election to recognize their union. Once recognized as an official union, then employees can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with their employers, which means the union's representatives would negotiate contracts on behalf of all its members to ensure everyone has equal footing with management.

However, ultradavid also notes that starting a union is easier said than done, especially when many players are independent contractors and not actual employees. An independent contractor is someone who does work or performs a service for a company or organization on a freelance basis, usually retaining autonomy but without the rights, benefits and protection legally afforded to employees under labor laws.

According to Paul H. Haagen, co-director of Duke University's Center for Sports Law and Policy, if players are not actual employees of a team or association, but independent contractors, then they wouldn't be eligible to form a union under U.S. labor laws.

"We want to break down a key word: player. The labor laws only apply if the player is an employee," he said.

"If they are either independent contractors or they're customers, then the labor laws don't apply and they can't unionize. And that's what you would be looking at is something like a trade association."

However, even for teams that are formed of bonafide employees, it may still be impossible for them to form an organization similar to the National Football League Players' Association or National Basketball Players Association. Because traditional sports leagues are all formed by team owners, they can constitute a multi-employer bargaining unit, which is what allows each team's employees to form a single union.

At the moment, no organizations like the NBA or NFL exists in esports, though the Professional eSports Association (PEA) and the World Esports Association (WESA) could potentially fit the definition given time and legal precedent.

According to Haagen, even without multi-employer bargaining units in the esports scene, players could still potentially unionize on a team-by-team basis, so long as, again, they were considered employees and not independent contractors.

"If you have an employer and an employee, and you're in private business and it affects inter-state commerce, then there is at least a potential to unionize," he said.

However, even if there's the slim hope that traditional sports precedent and labor laws could hold up an esports union, the fact remains most players are much younger than most potential unionizers and their careers will most likely be considerably shorter.

"Who knows how long a player is gonna have a playing career? It could be just a few years, if that, and it's very difficult to ask them to potentially sit out for however long it would take to get the owners of teams to recognize a player union, rather than just get some replacement," ultradavid said.

"It's really tough to ask somebody who might have a year or two worth of playing to sit out for half or all of that time. It would be great, I'd love it, I really hope that it happens at some point. It's just probably not something very soon."

'...the people that are actually gonna know a little bit better than a retired judge from the New York Superior Court what the industry standard'

So then, if unions are unrealistic at esports' current level, what other mechanisms could make it easier for players to pursue legal action?

According to Michael Strauss and Chris Hoffman of Reed Smith LLP, one mechanism that's developing are arbitration courts — independent bodies that pass judgement on team and player conflict on behalf of organizations like WESA and Riot Games.

"Riot has recently launched an arbitration court that is right now only handling on the field issues, which would consist of sort of suspensions or fines that the league might be imposing on a team or player," Hoffman said. "And they have not gotten into these sort of internal team housekeeping issues yet, but the WESA arbitration court is much broader and would be potentially an avenue that players and teams can take advantage of when these types of internal disputes arise."

Though both Riot and WESA's arbitration courts are still in their fledgling stages, the two say that one substantial advantage arbitration courts have over the legal system is that the adjudicators themselves understand the scene and don't have to interpret traditional legal precedent in the context of esports.

"When you go to an arbitration court that is esports-specific for example, they are going to understand the types of compensation that players are earning. The amount which is industry standard for some of these players and what would trigger, what would be a reasonable amount of money," Strauss said.

"And so when you talk about player recourse and team recourse for that matter, you can end up in an esports specific arbitration court like WESA, and have the people that are actually gonna know a little bit better than a retired judge from the New York Superior Court what the industry standard is for paying a player for prize moneys or salary, or their Twitch channel."

'All they look at is the amount listed on the contract and that kind of thing, if they even look at that. Sometimes they just sign.'

Ultimately, with unions and arbitration courts unrealistic for the majority of amateur and semi-pro esports players, the best thing someone can do to protect themselves is to know their rights, know their contracts and take care of as much of their own business as they can.

For instance, claiming your own prize money instead of allowing your team to accept on your behalf may result in extra taxes but doesn't run the risk of losing out on the money entirely, as happened to former Invasion eSport players Kevin "Harstem" de Koning, Juan Carlos "MajOr" Tena Lopez and Julian "Lambo" Brosig.

Harstem says that he strongly regrets allowing Invasion to handle his prize money and allowing them to regularly dole out his payments late until his former manager, Sebastien "Sebou" Dang, disappeared with several thousand dollars of his, MajOr's and Lambo's prize money.

"Don't accept late payments. Even if you know the people, have like a maximum amount of time for yourself what's late, handle your own prize money," he advised. "Make a — I'm not sure what it's called in English — but like a one-man company so you can basically get your own prize money immediately to you. It's a lot easier with taxes as well."

"When I have clients who are making a deal with a team that I don't know very well, that I don't have a ton experience with, I always try to get it so the money goes directly to them first, then they share whatever the amount is with the team if there is some split," ultradavid said.

He also says it's very important for players to do research on orgs before signing with them. Simply taking someone's word that they're on your side is just not enough.

"You have to look into who's behind the money, you have to look into what their incentives are, look into what the long-term plans of the organization are. Those are all really important things to look through from the players' perspective so that you can minimize the chances that you sort of get in bed with a huckster. You don't want to do that," ultradavid said. "Too often I have had clients or known about other players who get an offer and all they look at is the amount listed on the contract and that kind of thing, if they even look at that. Sometimes they just sign."

As chair of Duke's Student-Athlete Counseling Committee, Haagen has helped numerous young athletes transition from collegiate sports to the big leagues. One thing he cautions any young player to do before they sign a contract is understand how it could affect them deeper into their career.

"I had a baseball player and he was presented with a contract and I said, 'You understand you're giving up the rights to your name in connection with baseball as long as you are a professional athlete,'" Haagen recounted.

"And then he did and I said, 'You understand, you are being paid two very fancy gloves a year, that's what you get out of this. You're giving up this right.' And he said, 'Yeah, I understand it. These are really good gloves and I intend to go to medical school in a year. So y'know, play a year in the minors, have that experience, maybe write something about it, and then I'll go to medical school.' Well, you played in the Major Leagues for 13 years."

One issue that plagues esports much more than traditional sports are people playing for teams without contracts. While less common these days, especially in the gentrifying fields of LoL and CS:GO, the issue still persists, sometimes in teams at the highest peaks of their respective sport. For instance, though Jackie "EternalEnvy" Mau and Rasmus "MiSeRy" Filipsen claim that Team Secret failed to live up to their promises, they nor any of the other players on the roster had contracts.

Though that fact makes a potential legal case exponentially more difficult, Hoffman and Strauss say it wouldn't be impossible. According to them, even without written contracts, players can argue that they had an oral agreement in place with the org or can invoke the Unjust Enrichment theory.

“There is a legal theory, an equitable legal theory, called Unjust Enrichment. And if you can demonstrate that as a team or a player, you've rendered services to the other party, then you're entitled to be compensated for those services,” Hoffman said. “It does bring up issues of definiteness and exactly what the parties agreed or what the value of those services are in that, that can be especially tough to determine in an industry as unique as esports.”

Laying down the law

Despite examples like the situations facing Tainted Minds' former LoL roster and the ex-Invasion StarCraft players, the esports world has made great strides towards legitimacy.

According to Hoffman and Strauss, the best solution may simply be letting nature take its course as more outside investment pours in bringing with it the influence of big money sponsors and business people who won't stand for legal drama.

"Esports as an industry is going through growing pains and that's counter-balanced by just the exponential growth that we've seen and the growth opportunities that lay ahead. And as teams, players and other stakeholders all are sort of figuring out the best ways to monetize in this industry and to realize on their investments," Hoffman said.

However, for the players forced to navigate the barely-charted legal and contractual territory of esports all on their own, Harstem has one piece of advice.

"Don't get ******* over guys."

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Laying down the law: Legal professionals on how (and if) esports pros can take their org to court

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Lonpicman / Wikimedia Commons

When former Dream Team and mousesports coach Nick “Inero” Smith boarded a plane to Australia to head up Tainted Minds’ OPL team, he was excited to use the opportunity to help develop the amateur scene.

“I had a plan in my head. I wanted to come over here and try something with international players,” he said. “For me, my biggest interest isn't just going straight to LCS, it's not something I'm too interested in. I want to stay in amateur leagues. Or at least, that's what I wanted to do. And just work with players that are in kind of this middle ground between playing professionally and playing as an amateur and just help them through that whole process.”

However, within three months of stepping into their Strathfield team house, Inero would find himself locked in a highly public legal battle with the organization over allegedly poor, contract-violating working conditions he says made it impossible for him and his players to perform at their best.

Not only did the org not have computers for them when they first arrived, but Inero claims internet issues forced them to miss scrims and practice in an internet café. Not to mention the frequent power outages they faced — as many as 12 in one day, according to Inero. Inero said the house also suffered from sanitation issues such as mold and insufficient access to waste disposal due to the organization’s failure to get authorization for a second garbage bin for the team.

“We only had one tiny bin to use for seven people and obviously, trash only gets picked up once a week, right?” Inero said. “And we had no recycling bin, we literally just had that one tiny red bin outside to put all the trash in. And that bin was filled up way too quickly and over time, trash just started piling up in different parts of the house because we had nowhere to put it.”

Inero said that after weeks of Tainted Minds failing to solve the issues, the roster attempted to settle things with the org through mediation with Riot Games. But when that failed, Inero and several players chose to hire a lawyer who helped them send notices of termination for cause due to a breach of contract.

However, to date, Tainted Minds have refused to acknowledge any contract breaches and neither the org nor Riot Games have taken them off the roster in the Global Contract Database, meaning they are unable to join new teams until the situation is resolved. Inero said that Tainted Minds’ refusal to admit any wrongdoing and keeping them in legal limbo has been deeply frustrating for him.

“For them to say, ‘No, you guys are still under contract. We haven't breached anything,’ really, really pissed me off personally because I gave them every chance,” he said. “I tried to be really nice about it, fixing things. I had constant meetings with Tainted Minds trying to help them work through all of this stuff. And yeah, it just, it never got fixed.”

'People are too scared to do anything about it'

The story of Inero and his players is not uncommon in esports. There have been many high-profile cases of players alleging their organization breached the terms of their agreements.

For instance, former Team Secret players Jackie “EternalEnvy” Mao and Rasmus "MiSeRy" Filipsen accused the organization of mishandling their prize money. Team Secret has since parted ways with its then-director Kemal Sadikoglu.

While team owner Clement "Puppey" Ivanov claimed in a March 6 Twitlonger that they had "fulfilled all of our obligations towards previous players for their time at secret," EternalEnvy replied on Twitter that he had still not received compensation.

There was also the case of Marcin "SELFIE" Wolski attempting to leave MeetYourMakers in 2015 due to missed payments only for his manager to threaten his family to force his return. SELFIE was 18 at the time.

Despite the growth of esports, it’s still fairly rare to see players seek legal aid in these cases, as Inero and his players have. Even with thousands in missing prize money and unpaid salary on the line, players will often choose to take the loss rather than take their organization to court.

“Seeking legal help isn't something necessarily players can do very easily,” Inero said. “It's costly, most people are 17 to 20 years old, have no idea how to handle that whole process, have no idea where to even start. And it's just like, I don't know, it seems too overwhelming for them to get into, and most teams just kind of deal with it. And they just suck up the issues and just roll on with it. So I feel like it doesn't get called out as often as it needs to. I feel like it's really, really common and that's just, yeah, people are too scared to do anything about it.”

In January, StarCraft II players Kevin "Harstem" de Koning, Juan Carlos "MajOr" Tena Lopez and Julian "Lambo" Brosig all left Invasion eSport, alleging that the org’s manager, Sebastien “Sebou” Dang, had disappeared with several thousand dollars of their prize money. Though Harstem and MajOr did consult with lawyers, they ultimately decided not to pursue legal action.

“Let me lay down the situation. It's a French team, with a Swiss manager, and I'm Dutch. I think that should complicate it enough,” Harstem explained to theScore esports in January.

The 22-year-old player said he is owed $4,000 from his Top 16 finish at DreamHack Montreal, however Los Angeles attorney and FGC commentator David "ultradavid" Philip Graham said that a protracted, international legal case can very quickly make that sum look like chump change.

“I couldn't even tell you a proper estimate. Certainly, something close to six figures I would imagine. Certainly in the high tens at the minimum,” he said. “When clients of mine in esports in the past have been aggrieved, we've looked into how much litigation would cost and best estimate for something that was not even international, it was local, would have been maybe about $800,000. Compared to seven thousand dollars, it's absurd to consider.”

So the question remains, how can players protect themselves from these sorts of situations before they arise? According to Michael E. Strauss and Christopher P. Hoffman of Reed Smith LLP, it all starts with a good contract.

“One of the core issues that will always dictate what types of remedies players have is what their contract says with the organization,” Strauss said. “These types of issues will turn on whether their contract says 1. they're owed the type of money that they're saying that they're owed. And 2. whether they fulfilled all of their obligations under the contract to earn that money.”

“[If] the player's done everything right and fulfilled everything he or she has to do in order to be entitled to that compensation, then you're in a general sort of run-of-the-mill, traditional breach of contract situation,” Hoffman said “And, y'know, the player at that point has a decision to make in terms of whether to bring a lawsuit, try to address it internally as a housekeeping matter.”

'It's funny how getting salary late kind of desensitized myself from stuff like this'

However, even if you have a contract, that doesn't mean you're immune from trouble. The situation for the former Invasion players is far less cut-and-dry than a simple contract dispute. According to Harstem and MajOr’s mother and manager, Maru Lopez Ramirez, Sebou all but disappeared in December while on a trip to China without either players or Invasion personnel able to get in contact with him.

“The other guys [in Invasion], they are very shocked,” Harstem said. “They apologized multiple times to me, they're basically ... I wouldn't call them victims exactly, because they don't have the same monetary loss as MajOr, Lambo and I have. But, I think it would be very unfair to say that they have the same part in this as Sebou.”

According to Harstem, before Sebou’s involvement with the organization, Invasion had been a simple community team. It wasn’t until Sebou came in that Invasion began fielding pro players, initially signed and salaried out of Sebou’s own pocket.

However, while Harstem said Sebou was independently wealthy, January wasn’t the first time the Swiss manager was accused of failing to meet his financial obligations. In August, Sebou was accused by then-MVP coach Lee "Choya" Hyung Seop of failing to pay former Invasion player Koh "GuMiho" Byung Jae several thousand dollars in expenses and prize money from his time with the team. In a January video AMA, GuMiHo said he still had not been paid. Even earlier, in January 2016, ex-Afreeca Freecs coach Yi "Legend" Seon Jeong accused Sebou of failing to pay fees from an aborted deal with SBENU.

Though Harstem admits the incidents with Choya and, in particular, Legend worried him, ultimately, he chose to trust Sebou. After he left Fnatic in 2015, Harstem says he spoke with several teams, but chose Invasion in part because Sebou had left a good impression on him at IEM Sao Paolo 2014.

“He always tried to help me wherever he could,” Harstem said of working with Sebou. “I've been a player that had a lot of trouble playing offline, and he always tried to help me, just talk to me about it. I always got a lot of trust. Even when I wouldn't be in perfect shape, I would still get sent to tournaments. Yeah, like, him as a person, I don't know. Just like, a nice guy. I liked hanging out with him.”

Though Harstem says they had a good personal relationship, that didn’t mean their professional relationship was smooth. Late payments were the norm at Invasion eSport under Sebou, with salary installments coming in as much as three weeks after the agreed upon day, according to Harstem. The situation became so frequent, that it ceased being an issue for Harstem. It was the new normal.

“It's funny how getting salary late kind of desensitized myself from stuff like this,” Harstem said. “I feel like if this would have happened just without ever getting salary late, I would have been a lot more worried. But because everything was always kind of late, like, you kind of get used to it in a way, you know?”

While Harstem admitted it was still possible that Sebou really was simply out of reach, he was all but certain he had fled with the prize money.

“It just feels very weird still. But I guess that's what it looks like the most. The most logical reason. It's funny, because I had similar conversations with the other guys from Invasion,” Harstem said. “We're all … I guess, confused is the best word honestly. It just, I don't know, makes little sense. I guess we might have been, I guess especially me, might have been a little too naive, too trusting. And I guess we paid the price for it now.”

ultradavid said that while contracts are very important for any player or professional to have, there’s only so much they can do in a situation such as this.

“Having a contract is useful, it's very helpful so that everybody knows what's expected of them and what all their options are, and that by itself is really valuable,” he said. “But oftentimes in business, esports included, the contract itself is only as good as the practical enforcement of it is. And if practically speaking, it's very difficult to enforce because somebody's disappeared off the radar.”

'I feel like it's just a constant thing'

As they wait for legal proceedings to unfold, Inero and his team, many of whom are international players, are waiting out the storm in Australia.

Save for Andrew "Rosey" Rose, who is from Melbourne, Inero and his players are currently staying with Aaron "ChuChuZ" Bland’s family. Inero said the saga has been particularly hard for ChuChuZ, who had planned to make this split his last hurrah before putting League on hold and returning to school.

“He felt really bad, because he just wanted to play this split and try going through OPL in a different team,” Inero said. “And he kind of feels like it was just taken away from him because of everything that happened, which is pretty sad. And I know the other guys feel the same. Like, they just want to play, so they're pretty upset that they're stuck not being able to right now.”

As difficult as the Tainted Minds situation has been for them, Inero said they are far from the first roster to go through this sort of ordeal and that they’re unlikely to be the last.

“I feel like it's just a constant thing,” he said. “I think a lot of teams actually deal with a lot of stuff like this. But a lot of teams are too hesitant to actually call it out, because of the fact that y'know, the organization and Riot just have so much power over you.”

With the difficulties, costs and frustrations legal action could entail for players or any esports professional considering taking legal action in a dispute, the question of whether the effort and heartache is worth it is a difficult one to answer.

However, Hoffman said that it’s important that they consider what the decision will mean for the next player to find themselves in the same predicament.

“There's probably more at stake than just the dollar amount issue,” he said. “Because a lot of what is taking place in real time is setting up the policies, procedures, protocols, and the ways of doing business that the various stakeholders are going to perform under going forward.”

This is the first part of a two-part series. Check back in for Part 2, where we'll look into what enforcement mechanics it will take to lay down the law in esports.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Tainted Minds release statement on OPL contract dispute

by 13h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Tainted Minds

Tainted Minds have spoken out on the ongoing contract dispute with their former OPL roster, stating that conditions in their team house, amongst other allegations, were not severe enough to allow the players to attempt to terminate their contracts.

On Feb. 13, Ryan "ShorterACE" Nget, Tristan "Cake" Côté-Lalumière, Aaron "ChuChuZ" Bland, Andrew "Rosey" Rose, the team's coach, Nick "Inero" Smith, and manager Fasffy left Tainted Minds' Strathfield team house after retaining a lawyer, Matt Jessep, who advised them to send notices of contract termination to the organization over a number of contract breaches.

RELATED: Former Tainted Minds coach alleges team was mistreated by org, players reportedly in contract dispute

Many of the players' complaints revolve around perceived inaction on the part of Tainted Minds in regards to addressing issues such as unstable internet and electricity in the house as well as the general sanitary situation. But, the organization's statement says that it was difficult to procure solutions because of a number of factors including difficulty getting in touch with contractors due to the Australian holiday season, a record-breaking heatwave and the fact that the house was a rental property.

"Tainted Minds acknowledges that issues arose with their gaming house but by the time of mediation with Riot on February 6, 2017, it appeared the majority of the issues had been resolved, although a few minor problems remained," the statement said. "These minor issues were subsequently resolved. Because of this, the notices of termination came as a complete surprise to Tainted Minds, especially after a win the day before."

However, according to a counter-statement from Fasffy, the issues had remained serious even after mediation.

"We still had no extra council [garbage] bins, power in the house was still tripping, we still had internet issues, we still didn’t have the pc’s we were promised," she wrote. "3 times random people showed up at the house, we didn’t know when they’d be coming and we'd lose practice. We didn't know when people would be coming. So most importantly.. we were still NOT ABLE TO PERFORM OUR JOBS OUTLINED IN OUR AGREEMENTS."

While Tainted Minds acquired four players to create a new OPL roster to fill in for the rest of the season (one player from the original team stayed on), the org refused to acknowledge that the rest of the original roster's contracts had been terminated and kept them signed on Riot Games' official contract database.

"Tainted Minds was advised by their legal counsel that the grounds disclosed for termination were not legally sufficient under the termination provisions in the team members' contracts and were therefore of no effect," the organization said in their statement. "Tainted Minds had invested a significant amount of money in the players and held them to their legal contracts. It was also believed that this would set a bad precedent for the industry if players could ignore contracts and walk from a team at any moment without following process."

While the original roster accused Tainted Minds of breaking Riot regulations by having a 13-player roster on the contract database and attempting to cover it up by changing the "date modified" field, according to a statement from Riot OCE, a temporary exception was made for Tainted Minds and the database failed to update properly.

RELATED: Riot OCE responds to Tainted Minds controversy

While Inero and ShorterACE have settled with Tainted Minds and ChuChuZ retired from competitive League, Rosey and Cake are still signed to the org on the contract database. On Mar. 22, Cake publicly released an extensive database of chat logs documenting conversations between Inero, Fasffy and Tainted Minds between November and February. This database was previously made available to the press, including theScore esports.

"I am only releasing this to cover my reputation and seek recovery for the damages they have caused me by restraining my ability to play for the rest of split 1, when my contract has been legally terminated," Cake wrote in a Twitlonger. "Tainted Minds declined arbitration offered by Riot NA a few weeks ago, but are suddenly interested in it, after a few of my friends have been released, and after I threatened to release the chat logs. If all those proofs are not enough to get Tainted Minds a competitive ruling from OPL, I will make sure to find more."

According to Tainted Minds' statement, while they attempted to negotiate a settlement with Cake, the 22-year-old Canadian refused and sought out damages for the time he was unable to play.

"The additional terms of the settlement were that neither party acknowledge fault and that both parties release a joint statement to express their regret in the situation and wish each other the best in their future endeavors. Tristan declined this to which his legal representative immediately emailed back to say Tristan would consider the offer," the statement said.

"March 17th Tristan then threatened to release confidential communications unless he was paid $10,000 USD. Even still TM reiterated the previous offer to him with one more chance to sign, which was declined."

According to Cake, while he did ask for $10,000 in damages in exchange for signing the settlement agreement, he only said he would release the chat logs after negotiations with Tainted Minds broke down.

"I asked for money to cover some of my damages and also for my reputation being hurt signing that deed with them after going public. It was the amount i was willing for my reputation to take a hit," he told theScore esports.

"In [one] email I mention chat logs going public, but that was after I publicly said that I would release stuff in 24 [hours]."

Tainted Minds' statement also leveled serious accusations against Fasffy, saying that many of the issues have arisen as a result of the quality of the contracts. According to Tainted Minds and the player's database, Fasffy brought forward a personal friend whom she appeared to present as a "practicing lawyer" in the players' chat logs. She allegedly said her friend could draw up contracts for free on the condition that the contracts not be re-used outside of the agreed upon players and personnel.

However, Tainted Minds said that after confronting Fasffy about contacting the captain of their recently-acquired CS:GO squad about the terms of their contracts, Fasffy then requested they pay her friend a fee because they broke his terms and used his contracts outside of their intended purpose. The incident appears to arise in chat logs from both from Tainted Minds and the players' database.

Though Tainted Minds say Fasffy would not initially share the friend's full name or contact information, relaying their negotiations through herself, their own lawyer discovered Fasffy's friend was not a fully-licensed lawyer.

"It was discovered that the individual was not a certified, practicing lawyer but 'someone that works at [redacted] Legal,'" the statement said. "However, we emphasise that the person represented as a lawyer, never made that statement themselves and it was only ever Fasffy who referred to them as a 'lawyer.'"

While Tainted Minds were previously accused of missing payments, they said in their statement that they held back payments from players who had not properly filled out tax documents.

"Player payments provided by Riot were paid immediately to players who provided compliant tax details to Tainted Minds. 49% was withheld from players who had not, as required by law and the Australian Tax Office (ATO)," the statement said. "Under the agreement, TM has the right to make such deductions to meet its legal requirements. These player payments have since been made in full upon request from Riot. All other relevant player monthly / OPL match payments / valid invoices were paid on time and in full and complied with Riot payment schedules"

Cake confirmed in a counter-statement that he has since been paid the sums he previously said he was not paid.

While Fasffy has also accused the organization of failing to remunerate her after working hefty amounts of overtime and also paying household expenses out of pocket, the statement says there was "considerable doubt over the billable hours claimed, these include 24 hour days which under no circumstance would be requested by management for health and safety reasons and general welfare of the individual."

Tainted Minds said that while they did review her contract with the intent of drafting a new agreement that better reflected her responsibilities, she and the players left before that process was completed.

"Even in mediation you would not pay me for the previously agreed upon necessary overtime worked unless I’d signed a new contract," Fasffy wrote in a counter-statement. "I did not refuse to accept a new contract, I simply stated that I was not comfortable going into new contract negotiations until the outstanding and and old issues were resolved and that it looked like you had no intention of paying my ... December overtime so it looked like we were not going to be able to move forward from this."

On March 16, Riot Games announced that they would be investigating the Tainted Minds situation alongside Riot OCE. The results of the investigation should be released later this week.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Best Rumble builds

by 18h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

Rumble's builds as an AP carry are pretty varied beyond his core of early magic penetration. As such, he has some unique build paths based on the enemy composition and how he chooses to deal damage or deal with the mix of damage presented by the enemy team. Because of Rumble's early health through Liandry's, runes and masteries, resists are particularly potent in making the firestarter as durable as he is damaging.

RELATED: A guide to Rumble

The Classic

  1. Doran’s Shield + Health Potion

  2. Haunting Guise

  3. Sorcerer Shoes

  4. Liandry’s Torment

  5. Zhonya’s Hourglass

  6. Void Staff

  7. Rabadon’s Deathcap

  8. Guardian Angel

Against Heavy AP

  1. Doran’s Shield + Health Potion

  2. Haunting Guise

  3. Sorcerer Shoes

  4. Negatron Cloak

  5. Liandry’s Torment

  6. Abyssal Scepter

  7. Zhonya’s Hourglass

  8. Void Staff

  9. Guardian Angel

RELATED: 8 quick tips for Rumble

Against heavy AD
  1. Doran’s Shield + Health Potion

  2. Haunting Guise

  3. Sorcerer Shoes

  4. Liandry’s Torment

  5. Zhonya’s Hourglass

  6. Void Staff

  7. Rabadon's Deathcap

  8. Guardian Angel

Against majority squishies
  1. Doran’s Shield + Health Potion

  2. Haunting Guise

  3. Sorcerer Shoes

  4. Liandry’s Torment

  5. Zhonya’s Hourglass

  6. Void Staff

  7. Rabadon's Deathcap

  8. Guardian Angel

Against majority tanks
  1. Doran’s Shield + Health Potion

  2. Haunting Guise

  3. Sorcerer Shoes

  4. Liandry’s Torment

  5. Zhonya’s Hourglass

  6. Void Staff

  7. Rylai's Crystal Scepter

  8. Rabadon's Deathcap if ahead, or Luden's Echo if even or behind

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

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