The Overwatch League is barely up and running and already the professional eSports promotion has had a number of players face disciplinary action due to behavior. One player is even parting with their team following their second suspension in about as many months.
Based on a statement from the Fuel, the split between the team and Lengyel was “mutual,” which sure sounds like polite business-speak for “we dropped him like a bad habit.” The statement from the Fuel goes on to say it was determined that the split was “in the best interest” of both entities, with Lengyel being allowed to step away from the team before the conclusion of his contract.
It doesn’t sound like that hole in the roster will last very long, as the Dallas Fuel has stated they are already looking for someone to help the team succeed in the future. As for Lengyel, he’s free to seek other professional gaming opportunities or keep making money via streams, but we have to wonder what kind of team would actually choose to sign a guy who got dropped twice, in quick succession, for terrible behavior.
Lengyel’s departure from Overwatch League was only one of four disciplinary actions that came rolling out at once, including suspensions from competition and fines. As for Lengyel, his first suspension came following homophobic remarks he made during a post-match stream. This second suspension comes as a result of his repeatedly using an emote that has been adopted for racist purposes. The Overwatch League confirmed this, stating he had “repeatedly” used the emote in a “racially disparaging manner.” Apparently he was also found to be using “disparaging language,” which is pretty much frowned upon if you’re supposed to be a professional athlete.
The emote being referenced is known as TriHard, which features the grinning face of a speedrunner known as Trihex. The emote is harmless on its own but, spammed the way Lengyel was using it, it has taken on the meaning of “hey, look, it’s a person of color.” That is, of course, the least offensive way we could think of to explain the meaning.
As for the other offenders, Dallas Fuel’s Timo Kattunen was fined for using homophobic language, Tae-Yeong Kim was warned for posting an offensive meme and Ted Wang of the Los Angeles Valiant was fined for account sharing.
Again, these are adults, and yet they’re having some real issues with behaving like it, despite the level of play they now represent. If nothing else, hopefully this will serve as a wakeup call for developers across all platforms. Toxic behavior is considered normal, and we’ve now got supposedly professional athletes continuing the trend in front of an international audience. Not exactly putting our best foot forward.