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TL;DR: Over the course of the investigation into the allegations made by players of Tainted Minds, we have interviewed players, team ownership, current and former team staff and Rioters, as well as reviewed written correspondence between all involved.
In conjunction with Riot Oceania, we have found Tainted Minds to be in violation of certain contractual obligations when it came to their pro players, coach and manager—specifically not making payments in the timeframe required within League rules and not providing hardware as specified within contracts with the team’s manager and coach. These contractual failings mean that Tainted Minds is subject to a fine of $7,000 AUD.
Due to the fact that Tainted Minds made efforts in good faith to correct ongoing issues based upon player feedback and otherwise fulfilled obligations, we won’t be expelling them from the OPL. We expect the organization to make a concerted effort to improve in these areas. We will be placing the org on competitive probation for a period of 6 months, during which time any further rulings regarding any material contractual violations with players or other team staff will result in expulsion from the OPL.
As of April 4, 2017, none of the players in question or the former coach are listed in the Global Contract Database as a member of Tainted Minds.
In conducting our review, we completed the following:
- Examined the documents provided online by multiple parties, which included more than 250 conversations over email and Skype, tweets and videos, as well as additional documents provided directly by Tainted Minds.
- Reviewed communications (emails, Skype messages, Twitter DMs) between Riot employees (from the OCE and LA offices) and representatives of Tainted Minds as well as the players, coach and manager.
- Conducted Skype, in-person or email interviews with all key parties, including players, owners and former management of Tainted Minds as well as LA and OCE Rioters who worked on early negotiations between the parties.
During the course of our investigation, we found that two major contractual obligations were not met by owners of Tainted Minds with regards to the pro players, manager and coach contracted to their organization.
Tainted Minds was required to provide its coach and manager with “high end gaming computers” as is stipulated within their contracts. We found that no computers were provided to the coach or manager. While the players indicated concerns over their own provided computers, those concerns were, in our opinion, not material violations of the contract, but rather a dispute between the team and players around unclear specification of quality and faulty machinery.
Our investigation also found that several players were not paid for OPL Weeks 3 and 4 within the required time period as stipulated within the Team Agreement because the team was seeking guidance on certain tax issues with respect to withholdings. While it is understandable that the team would want that guidance, and the payments were eventually made in full, the OPL rules are clear that payment must be made within a certain window of receiving stipend funds from Riot, and those payments were not made during that period.
Housing and player complaints
In regards to the complaints regarding the team’s living conditions, it’s clear that Tainted Minds was slow and vague in its communication to the players, coach and manager, but it’s evident that they were in fact trying to fix the issues:
- Tainted Minds offered to move the players, coach and manager to different housing (of their choice) as early as January 13, but the team declined the offer.
- As the house was a rental, many of the failings were on the part of the landlord. We reviewed emails from representatives of Tainted Minds to its landlord’s representatives throughout December, January and February, including multiple emails seeking permission for improvements made to the house at the team’s expense.
- At no point do we believe that the players’ safety was in jeopardy. We have heard directly from the players involved they did not feel unsafe or at risk in the house, and communications between players and Riot OCE team members at the time confirmed the same.
- It’s important to note that while the team’s interest in addressing the issues was apparent, the unprofessional communication internally was deeply flawed. We ultimately believe that teams should be responsible for effectively communicating with and addressing their team’s needs, within reason. This failure in communication/team management weighed into our decision to place the team on probation.
At this time, Tainted Minds is not currently receiving any housing stipend for its League of Legends team house.
Conflict of Interest
We found no evidence that Tainted Minds was treated differently than any other organization would have been in the same position, and no business relationship existed—public or otherwise—between companies affiliated with Tainted Minds’ owners and Riot team members or Riot. Specifically, the amateur high school tournament run by a company affiliated with an owner of Tainted Minds is supported by Riot through the same program as all high school competition in the region and run by a completely separate department in the OCE office.
Each team in the OPL is required under their Team Agreement to abide by the material terms of their contracts with their coaches and managers. In this instance, Tainted Minds failed to provide the required computer equipment to its manager and coach.
Section 2.2 of the 2017 OPL Rules, entitled “Player Compensation” requires “[e]ach team [to] distribute the required Minimum Player Compensation ($500 per match played) to its starting players, in accordance with the terms of the applicable Team Agreement.” The applicable provisions in the Team Agreement require the team to pay its players within fourteen days of receiving the applicable stipend from Riot. Tainted Minds received the stipend covering player payments for Weeks 3 and 4 on February 13, 2017 and did not remit payment to its players until March 16, 2017.
Tainted Minds is in breach of Section 2.2 of the 2017 OPL Rules, and is fined $5,000 AUD for its failure to pay its players within the mandated timeframe for Weeks 3 and 4. While we have considered Tainted Minds’ explanation that the organization was seeking advice on dealing with certain aspects of Australian tax law applicable to how much money had to be withheld from the players under Australian law, ultimately the requirement to pay players within 14 days is absolute. Further, Tainted Minds is fined $2,000 AUD for its failure to comply with its contractual obligation to provide computers to its manager and coach, for a total fine of $7,000 AUD. In addition, Tainted Minds is being placed on competitive probation for the next six (6) months, wherein any competitive ruling against the team regarding a failure to timely pay players will result in expulsion from the OPL.
It’s also important to state that breaking non-disclosure agreements and releasing personal information publicly, including unredacted email addresses, often has serious legal implications and consequences. Even where the trust between players, coaches, managers and organizations break down, the violation of NDAs and the release of personal and/or confidential information should never be the answer to the problem. In the future, we’ll be taking NDA violations into consideration within rulings—whether from the player or the org side.
As mentioned above, our investigation also focused on Riot’s role within this process—including both our global and local teams. While we determined conclusively that there was no collusion or otherwise preferential treatment between the Tainted Minds owners and members of the Riot OCE office, it’s clear that there were a number of failings on Riot’s part in the handling of the matter that we can learn from:
- Despite complaints from the players about conditions in the gaming house, no one from Riot visited the house for the express purpose of responding to these complaints; this led to an investigation that wasn’t as exhaustive as it could have been.
- Riot relied upon a report from a video production team led by a Rioter that were at the team house on January 17, who said the house was in good condition alongside the verbal confirmation from one of the Pro Players.
- Through a scheduling error and later the unavailability of the only individual trained as a mediator in the Riot OCE office, there were several delays during the mediation process caused by Riot.
- The absence of clear role descriptions for certain staff positions (i.e. Team Manager and Player Handler) in the OPL Rulebook may lead to uneven practices and likely contributed to the breakdown of communications in this case.
Overall, this investigation revealed that pro players in every region may not be aware of all the resources available to them outside their team structures. Despite having locally dedicated league operators, clearly there are still times where players feel they need an additional resource. With that in mind, we will be introducing a new dedicated email address for any pro player in any league worldwide to reach senior central leadership and be guaranteed a response within 24 hours. It’s our hope that any pro struggling with issues they feel unable to address will have an additional outlet to hopefully gain quick resolution. However, this email address is not designed to circumvent regional leagues or erode the strong and valuable relationships they’ve built with their teams and players.
Additionally, we are going to create and maintain a more robust investigative process to be used by all regions. This new process will require a visit to a team’s gaming house when there are complaints about the condition of the house. We are also going to work with all regional offices to identify a third-party service that can offer mediation services for situations in which there is no personnel trained or available to mediate or where any of the parties may feel uncomfortable with a Riot-led mediation.
Finally, the OPL has committed to working with teams and revising its rulebook to ensure that the ruleset reflects precise and consistent definitions of the various staff roles present in OPL team structures.