[Column] Is it fair? - Logic Lacks in Riot's cvMax Indefinite Suspension

Riot Korea suspended former Griffin head coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho indefinitely from all Riot events. According to Riot, cvMax continuously abused their players verbally and physically for a long time, and that the violence was at the level where it was hard to endure as a human.

However, most of the Korean esports fans do not agree with this penalty. The reason is that it is an ‘indefinite suspension’. The public voice says that this punishment is excessive. Riot was stern, stating that ‘cvMax will not be able to participate in any esports events in any way that Riot Games holds or hosts including the LCK’. Did cvMax deserve this penalty?

■ Riot’s Penalty Does Not Correspond With Three Standards

※ Riot’s Global Penalty Index (GPI)

What was Riot’s basis? First of all, the basis should be on the Global Penalty Index that Riot had made a while ago. According to the GPI, what cvMax violated would fall under ‘Extreme Misconduct’.

In the article, the period of suspension was limited from three to ten competitive months. This brings the argument that cvMax should have received a three to ten month ban. However, Riot noted that in certain circumstances, they could modify the minimum and maximum suspension terms.

This could be interpreted that Riot considered this as an aggravating circumstance and that it was necessary to penalize cvMax’s suspension to ‘indefinite’. Then what was the reason and basis of the penalty? The public wanted a clearer and more detailed explanation. What Riot said was that ‘it was identified that the verbal abuse towards players was at a level hard to endure as a person through multiple depositions and submitted material’, but it was a bit vague to understand.

If Riot was at the same level of the law, then an explanation this vague may be enough, but at most, Riot is an organizer and operator of a competitive gaming league. Its authority is not at the same level of credibility as the law. Despite the validity of the statements made by Griffin players and staff, the public has yet to empathize with the alleged victims due to the lack of transparency and credibility in Riot's stance and explanation supporting it.

※  Previous Examples in Traditional Sports

If Riot were to take drastic measures such as an ‘indefinite suspension’, wouldn’t it have been reasonable to seek examples in traditional sports? Unfortunately, cases where head coaches were penalized an ‘indefinite suspension’ or ‘permanent ban’ in Korean traditional sports. However, the examples from traditional sports and this case are quite different.

Recently, a head coach in football was permanently banned. Jeong Jong-sun was charged of misappropriating $850K and sexually assaulting a parent of a player, and was permanently banned from the Korean Football Association. Another example was coach Cho Jae-beom in speedskating. Cho was accused of continuous sexual, physical, and verbal abuse towards a player where the player had fractured a finger and had concussion symptoms. Like this, penalties regarding permanent bans were mostly about causing severe injuries or sexual assault, etc.

We were able to hear from the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) as well. KSOC has a Fair Sports Committee where they review incidents. KSOC said, “KeSPA isn’t an ‘official’ organization [of KSOC]. They’re a ‘recognized’ organization, so the Fair Sports Committee can’t support directly, but if they ask for counseling, it’s always possible.”

KeSPA runs the LCK alongside Riot Korea and they are a recognized organization of KSOC. If KeSPA and Riot had difficulties in deciding the level of penalty, they could have asked for counseling to the Fair Sports Committee and penalized the parties according to the regulations.

The Fair Sports Committee has an article that punishes the physical and sexual abuse of a leader. There are heavy penalties such as suspension from competitions, suspension of qualification, dismissal, and expulsion, and light penalties like reprimands or salary reduction.


※  In Law Organizations Standards

KSOC explained that the extent of law organizations’ penalties would be a major basis for the penalty measure. A Korean law firm, EYP LAW, recently discussed this matter publicly.

“If the receiving end of the violence suffered mentally, it would be considered an assault, but compared to direct assault, the penalty would be minor. It may differ according to agreements between parties, but the punishment would mostly be a fine or a suspension of the indictment,” said EYP LAW and asserted that “according to the defense of the parties, the judgment of whether cvMax’s actions would be considered assault or not could vary.” We can see here that cvMax’s verbal or physical violence would most likely end up with a minor penalty if it happened in traditional sports.

Also, according to article 31 of the Fair Sports Committee’s regulations, cvMax’s contributions such as revealing the unfairness of Kanavi’s contract to have positive effects on future contracts of players, and making a Challengers Korea team one of the favorites in the LCK should have been considered to be mitigating factors. Additionally, according to article 34, there should have been a chance to issue reconsideration. Although they’re not obligated to follow the regulations of the Fair Sports Committee (as much as Riot’s GPI and LCK’s regulations lack in many areas), at least they should have considered the contributions and gave cvMax a chance to request reconsideration.

However, Riot hit the gavel with an ‘indefinite suspension’, one of the heaviest possible punishments. Since the decision can’t be understood logically, some see it as an act of revenge against the whistleblower, cvMax. It may have been much better if they put off the final decision after what the court decides.

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