One of the top ten esports companies in the world might have just lost its highly coveted franchise spot in Riot Games’ upcoming pro Valorant league because the CEO defended partying with internet misogynist Andrew Tate. Outside reports and comments by some employees certainly make it seem that way, insinuating that G2 Esports now faces a huge loss, all because its boss insisted on “partying with whoever the fuck I want.”
Valorant is already one of the top streamed games on Twitch, but Riot plans to overhaul its esports scene in 2023 by launching a new league system similar to League of Legends. There will be two tiers, with the most sought-after and lucrative spots going to partnered teams who will remain in the international leagues year-in and year-out and receive a regular stipend from Riot.
G2 Esports was reportedly set to clinch one of those partnership spots until its CEO, Carlos ‘ocelote’ Rodriguez, posted a video last weekend which showed him popping champagne with Andrew Tate, who was recently deplatformed from every major social platform for hate speech and generally fostering awful views about male identity and the treatment of women.
Riot released the official list of partners for the 2023 season on Wednesday, and sure enough, G2 isn’t on it. The company said one of the things it prioritized in picking partners was “organizations who share our values of always putting fans first, celebrate our diverse community, and are committed to supporting pros.”
According to Dot Esports, Riot did a “u-turn” over the weekend and will no longer be reserving one of the North America franchise spots for G2. 1PV reporter neLendirekt said Riot held an “emergency meeting” before deciding to drop the esports company over the recent controversy, with Sports Business Journal’s Kevin Hitt adding that the decision was due at least in part to the “recent dust-up with CEO and Andrew Tate.”
[Update: 9/21/22 2:42 p.m. ET: The Washington Post reports that while Riot did not confirm to anyone in advance which teams would get franchise slots, it did provide “winking green lights” to help organizations begin planning. G2 was apparently one of them, offering The Washington Post an interview about joining the North American Valorant league ahead of Riot announcing the partners list.]
While Kotaku has not been able to independently confirm this, several comments by G2 employees on social media appear to back this up. “Riot’s decisions are theirs, you can agree or not, it’s their game and they do what they want with it,” G2 artist Enelthion tweeted. “But the repercussions are going to affect many of us who work behind the scenes, the players and the staff, so please think about it before writing tweets rejoicing.”
A staff member in the partnerships and IT department tweeted, “I wanted to say something about the current G2 situation after working in this company for 9y and 9 m, but it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s by far the worst 4 days of my working career and I can’t think of anything else more than to keep supporting my team & colleagues.”
While G2 placed Rodriguez, who co-founded the organization back in 2014, on two months’ unpaid leave, many didn’t buy the CEO’s eventual apology. That’s at least in part because of a number of pro-Tate tweets he continued to like throughout the meltdown.
Given Riot’s own history of sexual harassment, and its current campaign to overhaul that corporate culture, it’s not surprising the company might balk at giving a lucrative deal to an esports team whose boss was partying with someone who has routinely joked about abusing women. Now the stunt could end up hurting other parts of G2 Esports.
“There is only one party I blame in this situation,” tweeted a relatively new hire in the company’s social media department. “He may not be a misogynist, but he has proven to be an irresponsible and selfish CEO incapable of remorse. Now we have to suffer the consequences.”
Riot declined to comment. G2 Esports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Update: 9/23/22 5:50 p.m. ET: G2 Esports announced late Friday afternoon that Rodriguez’s leave of absence has been made permanent. “As a global esports organization serving the world’s most diverse fan-base, we take responsibility for our fans, employees, team members, and partners across the world,” G2 wrote in a statement. “In this context, we want to underline that we do not support any form of misogyny.”
The CEO shared his own remarks in goodbye video posted on Twitter, asking fans to remember him for the good things. “I know it might be a shocker for many of you, or most of you, and trust me this is a very hard ending to what has otherwise been a very deeply meaningful and joyful experience,” Rodriguez said. “I take full responsibility over everything that went on over the last few days. And again, trust me when I say I just feel fucking destroyed about it.”