Counter-Strike fans everywhere could be bearing witness to one of the greatest tragedies in esports history—Boltz, steel, and zakk being robbed of participating in a Major.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive squad for Noah Winston’s Immortals organization is in the midst of an epic worthy of Euripides or perhaps a George RR Martin novel where as you know, the good guys can’t seem to win. On Friday, the organization announced that brothers Henrique “HEN1” Teles and Lucas “LUCAS1” Teles have been placed on “indefinite suspension” until that time another organization purchases their contracts or they agree to play again.
The suspension for the two is based on three incidents that took place over the past couple of weeks.
HEN1, LUCAS1 and Vito “kNgV” Giuseppe failed to show up on time for both the semifinal and finals matches at the DreamHack Open Montreal Tournament that took place a couple of weeks ago. By rule, the tournament organizers told Immortals that they would forfeit the first map of the scheduled best of three finals. They ended up losing 0-2 to North.
After losing in the finals, kNgV made a death threat over twitter towards a member of Counter-Logic Gaming’s CS:GO team after the CLG Coach and CLG player made comments as to why the three players were late. Intimating that the three were out too late partying and hungover, kNgV took exception, going so far as to looking for the CLG player to “have a talk.” kNgV was placed on “internal suspension” for the threat and his behavior.
This past week while playing in the Epicenter Americas Qualifier, LUCAS1 and HEN1 demanded that kNgV be allowed to play after losing the first map playing with their coach, Rafael “zakk” Fernandez as a stand-in. Their opponent in this match? Counter-Logic Gaming. Knowing he was currently suspended, kNgV played in the match anyways, getting the 2-1 victory, but was terminated from his contract in the process.
In a week, three-fifths of the team has been either fired or suspended. Three-fifths. The magic number of players needed to keep a spot in a coveted Valve sanctioned Major.
The Immortals made it to the finals of the PGL Krakow Major last July achieving “Legend” status. They are guaranteed a spot in the next major which is slated for early 2018. Well three-fifths of them are.
Understandably, the three-fifths rule was instituted to protect the integrity of the Major tournament system by making sure that a majority of the team that had the talent to make it to a Major would be in attendance for the next one. The rules basically say that the players each own one-fifth of the Major slot. The organization owns nothing.
Could Boltz, steel, and zakk be robbed of participating in a Major?
These three would not see any of the typical revenue sources including sticker sales, merchandise sales, or winnings from the tournament. They will be bereft of something they earned.
If the three do not get to participate in the Major are there any remedies, legal or otherwise?
Some esports lawyers think the three shouldn’t just take it lying down if they get denied participating in the next Major. They might have a case and be able to sue for monetary damages. Who would be the most likely targets? The three other players.
“In the potential case of Immortals, if kNgV, HEN1, and LUCAS1 were to take the major spot due to the three-fifths rule or if Immortals was prevented from participating in the Major due to its lack of compliance with the three-fifths requirement, steel and boltz may have a solid argument for standing if they can sufficiently allege that the specific acts or omissions of the departing three members prevented them from participating in the major,” Chris Lloyd, a lawyer who represents numerous esports players said. “However, a finding of standing has little to do with whether the case will ultimately be successful on the merits.”
Justin Jacobson, a lawyer for the Agency for Professional Esports said there are a lot of things to consider in this situation.
“Part of agreeing to participating in a tournament, you might be agreeing to their terms, including not suing them,” Jacobson said. “This could potentially spiral out and bring on more parties, this might end up being a situation that gets settled between attorneys because clearly several parties will be damaged. Zakk, Boltz, and steel might have claims against the other players for breach of contract, potential issues with sponsors who paid presuming the team would be competing at certain major tournaments and more.”
While some attorneys believe there is a case to be made by zakk, Boltz, and steel, there appears to be a simple non-litigated remedy that would alleviate the problems facing the affected parties.
Zakk, Boltz, Steel, LUCAS1, HEN1, and João “Horvy” Horvath could play together with LUCAS1 and HEN1 waiting to get bought out after the next Major and before their contracts expire in May 2018.
If this team plays together at the Major and stays in the top eight, Winston will have the three-fifths he needs with Boltz, steel, and horvy, to play in the next one. This would make LUCAS1 and HEN1 expendable. Since the two want out regardless, this scenario would play out as the best for both the organization and the players.
If this doesn’t happen, Immortals owner, Noah Winston, must run through a myriad of scenarios and make some hard decisions.
Winston could simply sit LUCAS1 and HEN1 on the bench until their contracts expire in May of 2018, effectively abandoning their Major slot. He could also sell the contracts of the two to an organization that plans on signing kNgV which would give another organization the three-fifths needed to participate in the next Major. However, because the price is going to be inflated because of the added valuation each of the players bring, pundits doubt there will be any buyers.
The latter being the nuclear option, zakk, Boltz, and steel could throw a huge monkey wrench into the entire affair. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.
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