Evo President Goes On Leave as Wave of Abuse Allegations Hit Fighting Game Community [Update]

Evo President Goes On Leave as Wave of Abuse Allegations Hit Fighting Game Community [Update]

In light of the past day's events, some top players are also stepping away from Evo Online.

Update 2 [July 3, 9:30 a.m. PT]: Nintendo has provided the following statement to USgamer.

"At Nintendo, we are deeply disturbed by the allegations raised against certain members of the competitive gaming community. They are absolutely impermissible. We want to make it clear that we condemn all acts of violence, harassment, and exploitation against anyone and that we stand with the victims."

Update [6:25 p.m. PT]: Joey "MrWiz" Cuellar has been removed from his position with Evo. "Effective immediately, Joey Cuellar will no longer be involved with Evo in any capacity," reads a statement from the organization. "We are currently working towards his complete separation from the company and have relieved him of all his respsonsibilites."

Tony Cannon will act as CEO moving forward. Evo Online has also been canceled, with refunds being issued to those who purchased a badge. Evo will be donating the equivalent of the proceeds to Project HOPE.

The original story follows:


The industry-wide reckoning with issues of targeted abuse, sexual harassment, and exploitation has escalated within the fighting game community (or FGC) over the past 24 hours. Early this morning, the Evo Championship Series announced that its President, Joey "Mr. Wizard" Cuellar, was being placed on administrative leave and under third-party investigation in response to allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior involving minors. Within the Super Smash Bros. esports community alone, dozens of new allegations involving inappropriate sexual behavior toward minors have been directed at famous players.

While the accusations that have surfaced within the FGC over the past day amount to a flashpoint, they are both connected to the broader industry movement and come days after FGC-centered allegations of sexual misconduct made against developer and commentator Mike Zaimont. Zaimont, a well-known figure at Skullgirls developer Lab Zero, has since been banned from the Combo Breaker tournament by its director and was admonished in a letter signed by prominent members of the Skullgirls community on Tuesday.

Evo's move to place Cuellar on leave came shortly after a member of the FGC published an account alleging that Cuellar repeatedly offered male minors payment in exchange for dares involving partial or full nudity. "We are aware of the accusations that have been made against Joey Cuellar," reads Evo's statement posted to Twitter. "The behavior in these accusations runs directly counter to Evo's mission of building a safe, welcoming environment for all of our players and attendees. We take this responsibility seriously. Accordingly Joey has been placed on administrative leave pending a third party investigation."

Cuellar himself has yet to comment on the matter.

Cuellar and Zaimont are not the only members of the FGC now facing disciplinary action or further investigation in light of new allegations. Two top Super Smash Bros. players, Nairobi "Nairo" Quezada and Richard "Keitaro" King, are accused of committing statutory rape—their respective esports teams, NRG and Soniqs, have released statements announcing their removal from the team rosters. A public apology posted by Quezada can still be found on Twitter, while King has since deleted his account.

Of note, Nintendo's competition-focused Nintendo Versus accounts have removed several tweets referencing Quezada, as well as a video player spotlight featuring him. At the time of writing, Nintendo has yet to release a statement addressing the allegations, and posts referencing other accused players (including Cinnpie and Anti, who are also alleged to have pursued inappropriate relationships with minors) remain on Twitter. USgamer has reached out to a Nintendo representative for comment.

In response to the wave of allegations, a handful of top players and commentators have dropped out of Evo Online, the digital tournament series planned to replace Evo 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Five-time Evo champion Dominique "SonicFox" McLean announced that they will no longer participate in the online tournament. "It has to get worse before it gets better," they write. "Commending the bravery of everyone in the community right now. You have my support." DragonBall FighterZ player Lord Knight has also dropped out of the tournament, alongside commentators Stephen Lyon, Amanda "Romanova" Rose, and Alicia Junus of Accelerate Gaming.

Time will tell if today's events and the voluntary exits from Evo Online end up resulting in a change of plans or cancellation of the event. Evo Online is supposed to start with an open tournament for Them's Fightin' Herds this weekend on July 4.

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Mathew Olson

Reporter

Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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