On the 24th of July, Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun was released from Echo Fox. It was really out of the blue for the fans.
As a matter of fact, it was also very sudden news to the person directly involved: Fenix. He wasn’t prepared to be sent off. As a result, he wasn’t able to join any team and is just drifting around for now.
All he needed was ten more minutes. The date of his release was the NA LCS summer split roster lock in; he was only able to look for a team starting at noon that day and had only five hours to join another NA team. The remaining time was way too short to sign a new contract, but there was a team that still wanted him. However, he lacked ten minutes.
So what had happened? We sat down the listen to the behind stories from Fenix himself.
You were suddenly released from Echo Fox. What happened?
They just suddenly released me. On the day they released me, they didn’t explain much and just said: “Let’s talk.” But all of a sudden, they told me that they decided to release me.
A really funny thing was Altec went to meet the staff with me. I had the meeting first, and Altec went after me. Before the meeting, Altec told me that he bought coffee and bread so that he can do his best during practice. You know, Altec didn’t know anything either.
Does that mean you were released without being told anything in advance?
Since Rift Rivals was an international competition, I wanted to take it seriously, but the team suddenly changed the roster and had players playing in different positions. I didn’t like that.
So I told the team that I wanted to practice mid lane for a week or two by myself. What I’m saying is that when they decided to release me, I was resting. On the day before my release, the team manager called me and told me “How’s practice going? I miss you. Let’s meet up tomorrow.” Obviously, I told him that practice was going well and that I’ll be meeting him the next day.
When I got to the meeting, they told me that they decided to release me. There was not much of a reason; they just said that I was ‘underperforming’. And they told me that they’ll be playing Damonte.
On the contract, does it allow the team to release you out of nowhere?
There’s a term that specifies that the team can release me if I’m underperforming. To come to think of it, it’s a ridiculous term, but it’s because Gold Coin United sold my contract to Echo Fox. Obviously, the situation didn’t allow me to have better terms on my contract when I signed the contract.
What’s really funny is when Echo Fox bought my contract, they said that they’re an organization that exists for the players, unlike other organizations. They told me that they won’t ever meddle with the players, that I shouldn’t worry. After what happened, that’s just hilarious.
Didn’t they give you any other choice than having to get released?
No. They didn’t ask me to stay in the academy team or anything.
Were there any teams that contacted after you were sent out?
There were two teams. It’s really thankful that two teams actually contacted me in five hours.
Since I was in such an urgent situation, I didn’t want a starting spot; maybe a sixth man position, but things didn’t go well with one team.
With the other team, we could have agreed on terms, but that went to the bin as well. The roster lock in was at 5 PM that day and that team contacted me at 4:40. They said something like “We were scrimming, so we didn’t know you became FA. Since there’s not much time, we want to add you to our roster first and we can talk about the contract later.” The problem was that I wasn’t able to check the message early enough. I saw it at 4:55.
Since I wasn’t able to agree on terms with the first team, I had thought to myself, ‘I guess that’s it for me this season.’ and was giving up. If only I had ten more minutes, I’d probably be scrimming with that team right now.
The biggest problem with this incident was 'the day' that you were released. They sent you off on the day rosters were locked in.
I talked to the Players Association. They tried to help me. What I know is that they requested Riot to postpone the roster lock in date for just one day, but nothing changed.
Altec should be pretty mad too.
Altec was also really frustrated. The release fee on Altec’s contract was so small; I think that’s why the team just released him.
What about you?
I had no release fee. You know, the minute I was told that I was released, I was rather glad. I actually smiled. I thought ‘I’m finally free from this nasty contract!’
Was there any trouble within the team?
Not that I know of. Personally, I had some complaints about the team. The last Rift Rivals was the first international competition I could have participated in my whole 5-year-career. But they suddenly wanted to play Damonte, so I wasn’t happy.
When I watched Rift Rivals, I thought NA would lose no matter what. Besides Team Liquid, no team took the competition seriously.
What are your plans for the future? Didn’t any EU teams contact you?
I did get contacted, but I didn’t want to go to another league. I can become an NA player if I just had played this Summer Split, but I wasn’t able to fulfill the conditions by one or two games. I have to play another whole split to become an NA player. This is really a big thing in my career.
If only it wasn’t for this incident, I could have had an enormous advantage starting next season; the team that has me can bring in another EU or KR player, another import.
Did you talk to Riot about this matter?
I asked Riot, but all they said was sorry. There was probably nothing that they could do; I was released according to the contract.
Why do you think Echo Fox didn't tell you in advance? If they told you earlier, there would have been no problems and wouldn't have brought up any issues.
Maybe they thought ‘we’re not going to be using you for the rest of the split, so don’t you go to any other team.’ That’s all I could come up with.
I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard something after I was released; that Echo Fox had discussed releasing me a week before the actual date. If this is true, isn’t it funny to ask how my practice is going on the day before they were planning to tell me that I’m released?
When they notified that you’re sent off, did they explain in detail about the roster lock in?
They talked about the roster lock in such a calm and natural manner; I thought they were talking about the roster lock in for Week 6. I didn’t understand fully. So I just thought that I can join another team, no big deal; I didn’t take it too seriously.
However, when another team’s coach contacted me, he told me that if I can’t find a team by 5 PM, I won’t be able to play at all for the rest of the season in NA. That’s when I realized the seriousness of the situation.
Were there any motivation issues?
There were no motivation issues at all. I was always doing my best.
You had played really well during the Spring Split. You must feel really regretful to leave like this.
It really is. I really had good synergy with Dardoch in spring. I wanted to concentrate playing in the mid lane so that I can deliver good performance again; that’s why I requested to practice alone for a week or two. But I was released without even having the chance to prove myself.
What did your teammates tell you?
They just said that they felt sorry. I didn’t speak too much with the other players besides Altec. I really didn’t want to talk to anybody related to Echo Fox.
It seems that the team has too much leverage on the contract.
The same thing happened to Altec even though he signed his contract through an agent. My contract was signed several years ago; the only thing that was changed was my salary.
When I was in Team Liquid, although the terms in the contract weren’t that good, Steve cared for me really well. Steve was a credible person. He didn’t get rid of the players like Echo Fox did. He added terms that were good for the player in the contract and raised my salary a lot in a very cool manner. Now I realize that there’s no owner as good as Steve is.
Jared Jeffries had said that “there are a lot of things that went on behind the scenes”. What does he mean?
Frankly, that’s like a joke to me. Probably something behind the scenes that I don’t know and only they know.
Are you planning to continue to play in the NA?
Yes. I’ll be trash talking Echo Fox whenever I can. Altec also told me that he’ll never lose to Echo Fox if he were to meet them. I think I’ll feel really good if I win against Echo Fox.
Don’t you want to go back to Korea?
I’ve been in NA for quite a long time, and I can become an NA player soon. I have a big desire for that.
Where are you staying now?
In LA. I rented a place, but the monthly rent is really expensive.
Who consoled you the most?
My girlfriend was a big help. And Piglet bought me drinks every day and consoled me. He was even more furious than I was. As you know, he has no filters. (Laughs)
Is there any team that you want to join next season?
Any team that can beat Echo Fox.