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Chris Badawi, current part-owner of LCS team Team Dragon Knights (TDK) and CS team Renegades (RNG), solicited a player under contract with Team Liquid to join his team. After doing so he was notified by Team Liquid’s owner and LCS officials that soliciting LCS players under contract was a violation of league tampering rules and could disqualify him for consideration as an owner, coach, or player. Despite the warning, he again tampered with another Team Liquid player shortly thereafter. Due to this pattern of willful tampering, we are declining to certify Chris Badawi as an eligible LCS owner and issuing a one-year ban on him holding any officially recognized team position in Riot-affiliated competition* (i.e. owner, coach, manager). In order for TDK and RNG to be eligible to play in the LCS next season, Chris will have to divest his ownership stake in both teams.
Over the last month and a half we have received numerous reports from parties directly involved with the LCS of alleged misconduct by current Renegades (formerly Misfits) owner, Chris Badawi, who is also a part-owner of the LCS team TDK. After concluding an investigation into these reports we have determined that he has engaged in tampering on multiple occasions. Given his repeated pattern of misconduct, we are declining to certify Chris Badawi as eligible to be an LCS owner and issuing a ban on him holding any officially recognized team position in Riot-affiliated competition* (i.e. owner, coach, manager) for the remainder of the 2015 season and the entirety of the 2016 season.
Ownership in the LCS is a major responsibility, and requires a relationship built on trust between the owner and all members of the league. In this case, Badawi’s actions as a team owner have shown a lack of integrity, challenging that trust and disqualifying him from consideration as an LCS owner at this time.
This week, we concluded a full investigation into several allegations of tampering against Chris Badawi, current owner of Renegades (formerly Misfits). Our investigation confirmed that Badawi engaged in tampering– inappropriately influencing a player under contract with one organization to consider joining another– specifically against Team Liquid on two separate occasions. He was also dishonest about it to LCS officials during the standard screening for entry into the LCS that all prospective LCS owners must undergo before being approved (in this case, TDK submitted Badawi as a part-owner).
In the first incident, Badawi approached LCS player Yuri “KEITH” Jew while he was under contract with Team Liquid in an attempt to recruit him to Misfits, including discussing salary. Upon being made aware of this contact, Team Liquid owner Steve Arhancet warned Badawi that soliciting players under contract with an LCS organization without first getting permission from team management was impermissible. After his conversation with Arhancet, Badawi then reached out to KEITH and asked him to pretend their conversation had never happened if questioned by Team Liquid management.
Following the first incident, Badawi spoke with LCS officials in early February to discuss the CS and LCS poaching and tampering rules. After discussing how tampering and poaching rules operate in CS and LCS and having numerous questions answered, he was directly told tampering was impermissible and was given the following condition of entry into the league in writing: “At some point owners, players, coaches, are all behavior checked and if someone has a history of attempting to solicit players who are under contract, they may not pass their behavior check.”
Following this discussion with LCS officials, Badawi approached Diego “Quas” Ruiz, who was also under contract with Team Liquid. During discussions with Quas, he suggested that Quas consider leaving Team Liquid – in addition, he made an explicit offer that Misfits would offer a higher salary than Team Liquid if Quas were to join his team. Both of these statements constitute tampering. When questioned about approaching Quas, Badawi originally denied that the conversation had happened. However, after media reports about his discussions with Quas became public he later admitted to LCS officials that he had engaged in impermissible conversations with Quas regarding leaving Team Liquid and had offered him a spot on Misfits. He still denied having offered him a salary, a statement which we ultimately determined to be false.
When we considered appropriate penalties, we took into account the fact that Badawi had engaged in multiple instances of tampering, even when aware of the ruleset which expressly forbids it and after being directly briefed about tampering rules by LCS officials. Tampering is an offense which we take very seriously, and recent events have shown that our previous penalties are not achieving the goal of deterring organizations from this kind of unscrupulous behavior. As a result, we are taking a harder line on tampering and poaching to ensure that it is clear that they are unacceptable.
Due to the repeated pattern of soliciting players under contract, we are declining to certify Chris Badawi as eligible to be an LCS owner and issuing a one-year ban on him holding any officially recognized team position in Riot-affiliated competition* (i.e. owner, coach, manager).
Chris Badawi will not be accepted in any official position for any team in all Riot-affiliated competition for the remaining 2015 and entire 2016 season. If Renegades qualify for the LCS during the 2015 promotion tournament, they will be required to declare another owner or will be denied entry into the LCS.
In addition, Badawi currently owns a minority stake of TDK. In keeping with this ruling, we will require TDK to replace or resell his stake in the team’s ownership – if not completed by playoffs, the team will face disqualification.
Q: What does this mean for the players on Renegades?
A: The Renegades players are in no way implicated in this ruling– the penalty is solely against Chris Badawi as owner, and it is our hope that this has as little as possible impact on the Renegades players. It’s up to the team as to what their next steps are, but this can be settled by either selling the ownership slot to another individual, or (as has been the policy for CS spot ownership in previous splits) offering up the slot to the players.
Q: Chris Badawi wasn’t a member of the league when he engaged in this tampering, is it fair to penalize him for breaking a rule he may not have thought he was covered by?
A: Entry to the LCS is a multi-step process that involves not only qualification through the Promotion Tournament, but also meeting the professionalism bar of the LCS. In the case of players and coaches, this includes things like abiding by the Summoner’s Code and LoL – for prospective owners, this also includes vetting based on past actions. In this case, Chris Badawi was warned in writing by LCS officials that further tampering might challenge his entry into the LCS as an owner – the fact that he continued to engage in these behaviors shows us that he does not currently meet the professionalism requirement of being an LCS member.
Q: Does this effectively ban Chris Badawi from working within esports?
A: No. Chris Badawi is free to work within any esports organization he chooses, including Renegades. Our only stipulation is that he cannot currently serve in a recognized LCS capacity (owner, coach, manager) due to these incidents. If he would like to reapply to join the league as an owner in 2017, we would be willing to reevaluate his application and potentially approve it.
Q: This seems like a pretty long time to keep someone out of the league. Is tampering really such a big deal?
A: To recap some of the issues we discussed in a previous post, poaching protections are important both for the stability of organizations and to avoid situations in which legitimate contracts are undermined by competing offers from other teams during the season without the agreement of all parties – the player, the current management, and prospective employer.
When players and teams sign a contract they are entering into an agreement that a player will play for a team during a defined period of time and be duly compensated – players abruptly dissolving their contracts due to employment discussions with other teams during the season creates a chaotic environment for teams and players and undermines stability for teams and their competitors. It also puts honest teams which comply with anti-tampering/poaching rules at a disadvantage in acquiring players.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t want players to ever switch teams or find the team that is the best fit for them – players always reserve the option of exercising buyout clauses that may exist in their contracts, discussing the possibility of being traded to another team with their management, or simply waiting until their current contract is up before engaging in any negotiation they want. Ultimately, the value of contracts goes both ways. For players, contracts provide stability and the promise of a paycheck. For teams, contracts guarantee that contracted players play for their team and if a player wants to leave a team, the team management are a necessary part of that discussion. This is an important dynamic to preserve, and tampering/poaching protections are one way of doing so.
3.1 Team Ownership Restriction
The League shall have the right to make final and binding determinations regarding Team ownership, issues relating to the multiple team restriction and other relationships that may otherwise have an adverse impact on the competitive integrity of the LCS. Any person that petitions for ownership into the LCS can be denied admission if they are found to have not acted with the professionalism sought by the LCS. Someone seeking admission into the LCS must meet the highest standards of character and integrity. Candidates who have violated this rule set or attempted to act against the spirit of these rules, even if not formally contracted to the rule set, can be denied admission into the LCS.
10.2.13 No Poaching or Tampering
No Team Member or Affiliate of a team may solicit, lure, or make an offer of employment to any Team Member who is signed to any LCS team, nor encourage any such Team Member to breach or otherwise terminate a contract with said LCS team. Violations of this rule shall be subject to penalties, at the discretion of LCS officials. To inquire about the status of a Team Member from another team, managers must contact the management of the team that the player is currently contracted with. The inquiring team must provide visibility to LCS officials before being able to discuss the contract with a player
*This ruling previously stated that Chris Badawi would be banned from “LCS” positions. Has been corrected to “Riot-affiliated competition” positions.