Disclaimer : The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.
The recent controversy in the LCK continues after the LCK Operations Committee penalized SKT with a "Caution" for the "Unprofessional Conduct" of its ADC, Bang. Two cautions would warrant a warning and a set loss in the leaderboard for SKT.
"My salary would be higher than a hundred people like you put together. You should speak for yourself and work harder." This was Bang's response to a viewer's donation message back in February, and the root of this ordeal. The substance of the comment appears harmless, further exemplified by a lack of public attention and response by the committee for half a year. Yet the comment resurfaced 1 month ago, after the inven community drew back on it, and it would appear that through their discontent with the situation, Bang felt it necessary to apologize on a post game interview, and for the committee to take affirmative action. One can't help but wonder where was this committee, when the Longzhu organization was not paying its staff and players and did not have valid contracts for months? It also poses the question of just how much influence do online communities have over the actions taken by committees in these issues? The case of Longzhu was not in the public eye while Bang's was, and only his was punished.
First, let’s examine what a pro player is contractually obliged to do. As cited in the official statement, LCK ruleset clause 9.2 includes Professional Conduct for the players in and out of the game. Players also agree to represent their team in a non deprecating way when signed on to an esports organization. This means that a player must behave professionally in situations when his career is contextually relevant. While some might argue that the comment from Bang was unprofessional, harmful, and should be punished, the evidence against that is overwhelming.
Earlier this year, Bang made what one could argue is a more unprofessional comment that received no repercussions. On stream, a viewer with an affinity for the Samsung mid laner joins and the response is: "Crownlover? If you are a Crown fan, go watch Crown's stream you Faxxxt".
Back in May, there was another controversy regarding talks of prostitution among LCK players to the point where apologies were issued, and other notable Korean pros spoke out on the matter. Arguably a more severe "Unprofessional Conduct" but there was also a notable lack of public attention, and once again no repercussions.
Then we follow the case of Longhzu Gaming, where for months players and staff were not under contract, nor paid either salaries or the agreed upon incentives. To the point where it had severe issues on the performance and mental state of its employees. A case that is impossible to argue was not at some point in the radar of the committee and authoritative parties, yet there was no action taken for one of the worst possible offenses in esports.
Inven Exclusive: Whistleblowers reveal Longzhu Gaming's late salary issues
Four incidents. One was under the public eye and only that one was punished, Bang’s salary comment. This comment pales in comparison to the severity of the remaining three. But why this instance in particular, why Bang and SKT? As intriguing as it would be to imagine scenarios of favoritism, or foul play, with a simple application of Occam’s razor the answer is not only clear, it’s one that we’ve known for a long time. It’s just now that we get to feel the extent of its absurdity.
Like most industries that are under public scrutiny, it is paramount to maintain the audience's happiness. After all, the audience is the consumer. In games like League, where social media and public forums are the premier locations for mass opinions to be voiced, it is also where companies have their ears to the ground. Hence we see cases like Bang’s, where the forums were up in arms about him and his comment, it is heard by the authoritative parties, and punishment issued shortly after. Following this, we can do nothing but complain about why this happened, but other more severe cases squeeze by unnoticed. Our voices are less, and become lost in the wind, and the cases that ought to be looked into, forgotten.
It is unfortunate that this effect of public engagement has seeped into the fabric of the inner workings of an industry that should have its own sound judgment. But we have to be realistic, it’s not going to change. Change does not happen from the top, it happens from the people. The public will always have the power to condemn or revere whoever they desire, and while reverence in this medium has not had major consequences, condemning has.
While this argument touches only on the negative effect of the community, like most things that hold real power, it can be used for both good and bad. The communities have been notorious for taking down individuals who are not at favor. Yet they also bring up whoever is. Players find sources of encouragement that push them to be better, and some can even extend their careers longer than intended purely out of public opinion. Content creators may also soar if they are accepted as a part of the community. It is also true that in a working environment outside of being a player or a content creator, the opinion of these forums once again has an influence on potential job opportunities.
The point of this article is to urge you, the one who uses forums, or social media, or lurks, to speak up against what actually matters to continue the growth of esports in a healthy way, and pick fights against what stunts it. The behavior of players on stream being rude or speaking of debauchery is nothing, compared to the severe damage that real issues of injustice cause the scene. Do you want to see your favorite game, team or player on a billboard? On your favorite shows? Signed to major brands and finding more success? The success that makes the entertainment you love that much better? Because if so, I can guarantee you that these critical players that are waiting to jump onto the esports bandwagon with their knowledge of investment and globalization of industries will not be offput by the behavior of an individual player but by actions that harm the teams and leagues themselves.
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