May 12, 2020 - The following is a chronological timeline of events taking place from April 21st, 2020 until the date at the beginning of this paragraph regarding esports organization TSM and the League of Legends esports off-season between the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split and the upcoming 2020 LCS Summer Split. Inven Global reached out to TSM for a statement on the story, but TSM declined to comment.
UPDATE May 26 - TSM has released Jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett, who has been picked up by Dignitas for the 2020 LCS Summer Split.
UPDATE May 14 - TSM Support Vincent "Biofrost" Wang accidentally leaked some messages on Discord. The contents of the message are merely conversational, but the group included is TSM Manager James "Tonington" Kandel along with every member of the LCS team except Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett. Mingyi "Spica" Lu is in the group with the rest of the starting lineup, implying that Spica may be the starting Jungler for TSM in the 2020 LCS Summer Split.
TSM Acquires Doublelift
On April 21st, TSM kicked off the League of Legends esports off-season in dramatic fashion by acquiring star AD Carry Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng from Team Liquid. Doublelift was a member of TSM for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and due to his relationship with President of TSM Leena Xu, the League of Legends Championship Series conducted an investigation regarding the trade for potential conflict of interest.
On April 26th, TSM fans were able to breathe easy once the LCS announced that there was no conflict of interest in the organization's acquisition of Doublelift. However, because of his romantic relationship with Xu, speculation within the LoL esports community regarding the nature of TSM's big signing was not extinguished.
On April 29th, Xu released a twitlonger clarifying that all players TSM had ever approached to sign had been reached out to by proper means through Riot Games and that in doing so, that the organization did not violate any poaching laws.
To finalize TSM's AD Carry position, Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup, who started for TSM in the AD Carry position throughout the 2020 LCS Spring Split, was transferred to Misfits. It was announced on May 11 that Kobbe had signed with Misfits back in Europe for the 2020 League of Legends European Championship Summer Split, and that TSM had helped MSF facilitate Kobbe's transfer.
Leak & Community Backlash
On May 11th, only a few hours after Kobbe's smooth transfer from TSM to Misfits, Doublelift was streaming on his Twitch channel from his apartment. At a certain point in the stream, Xu was able to be heard in the background, assumedly on some type of business call, uttering the words, "It’s not up to me. Like, for example, no one wants to pick up Dardoch. That’s not my fault.”
The impression from the stream clip, which quickly made its way around the LoL esports scene, was that Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett, starting Jungler for TSM in the 2020 LCS Spring Split, was being shopped by TSM for a potential trade. It was confirmed shortly after by Xu via Reddit, where the President of TSM stated that a technical issue regarding new hardware had caused the breach in confidentiality and the subsequent leak, and that it was an unfortunate mistake.
The mistake has potential to cause severe consequences for Dardoch, and has drawn the ire of many members of the LoL esports community. Director of Esports at Evolved Talent Agency Barry "Eidelwiess" Lee shared insights from his experience and knowledge as an esports agent in regards to how this type of leak could affect a player in Dardoch's situation.
Popular League of Legends streamer and former NA LCS professional player Christian "IWillDominate" Rivera also pointed out that regardless of the initial acquisition of Doublelift by TSM being approved by the League, the recent mistake made by Xu is detrimental to the argument that no conflict of interest took place due to the relationship between Xu and Doublelift.
Others simply focused on how the mistake simply should have been avoided, regardless of details or context. Esports journalist Richard Lewis referenced a clip from one of Doublelift's streams a day or two prior, where the AD Carry gave Xu a heads up regarding his mic sensitivity to her voice, and that because of this, the issue could and should have been easily avoided by someone in Xu's position
Xu took full blame in the mishap, and apologized publicly to the community, TSM fanbase, and Dardoch in a twitlonger. In the twitlonger, Xu provides some clarity on Dardoch's current situation with TSM:
"On the back end, since the end of our Spring Split playoffs run, we’ve been working with Dardoch on the possibility of him splitting time/moving to academy however he expressed interest in joining another team for a full time starting spot. Over the last month, we put our best efforts forward to finding him a new team and he has been aware of all of the conversations that happened along the way with the other teams...
And at the end of the day, this mistake is 100% my fault and I wish the best for Josh despite everything that happened today."
Xu's twitlonger was accompanied soon thereafter by one from her boss, CEO, Owner & Founder of TSM Andy "Reginald" Dinh. Reginald addresses the situation surrounding Dardoch, Leena's role in TSM as an executive, the dynamic between Leena and Doublelift in context of the organization. However, several members of the community have stated that the apologies don't address the potential conflict of interest in the situation.
Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles, who is currently producing multiple series of content with esports organization Cloud9, tweeted that the main issue was that Xu was in the same room as a player — Doublelift — and that regardless of the technical slip-up, Doublelift was within earshot of information regarding another player's market value.
MonteCristo goes on to say that both twitlonger posts by Xu and Reginald, respectively, either do not understand the conflict of interest at the core of the situation, or that they simply aren't concerned about it, and that it was time for the LCS to step into the situation directly. No statement has been made by TSM, the LCS, or any other involved parties at the time of publishing this article.
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