Retired NBA star turned esports entrepreneur Rick Fox is preparing to cut ties with Echo Fox, the competitive gaming organization he helped found, after another shareholder allegedly used racial slurs during an email exchange, according to a report by Richard Lewis for Dexerto.
According to Lewis, the racist remarks came from an investor at Vision Venture Partners, the private equity firm that owns Echo Fox, and in which Rick Fox is a founding partner. The member allegedly used the n-word to refer to Jace Hall, former CEO of Echo Fox and current head of the esports website Twin Galaxies (which VVP also owns), in an email exchange related to an internal business dispute.
According to sources Lewis spoke with, the same Echo Fox shareholder had used racially abusive language in the past in relation to both Hall and Fox. Lewis did not provide the name of the investor in question.
When asked about the report, a spokesperson for Echo Fox provided Kotaku with the following statement (emphasis in original):
“There have been incidents in recent weeks in which a limited partner of the Echo Fox organization, who is not an employee, officer or director of Echo Fox, used a racial epithet towards individuals both verbally and via email. One such incident was detailed in media accounts today. And although that incident was not directed towards an employee, officer, member or shareholder of Echo Fox, racial intolerance connected to Echo Fox is entirely unacceptable. There have been other reported incidents where the shareholder in question used this same vile language towards Rick Fox personally. These incidents are especially significant for us as Echo Fox boasts an unparalleled level of diversity in its principal ownership group, management, leadership and player base. Upon being made aware of the incidents, the Company has made various demands to the offending investor, including the investor’s disassociation from the company and we are continuing to work diligently towards this end.”
Neither Rick Fox, Jace Hall, or Vision Venture Partners immediately responded to a request for comment.
Fox announced his reasons for leaving in an April 19 email purportedly addressed to other stakeholders in Echo Fox, which was obtained by Lewis. “This is an official notification of my intention to exit the Echo Fox organization as a shareholder and participant as soon as I am able to facilitate a transaction to do so,” Fox wrote. “The recent outrageous and abhorrent display of pure racism made by a significant Echo Fox shareholder as well as threats to my family have made it impossible for me to continue to remain associated with the company.
“I will not support or be associated with such behaviour and attitudes displayed at the shareholder level. Racism is an anathema to what my personal brand strives for and tolerating any form of discrimination such as this is not acceptable.”
Echo Fox was originally formed in late 2015 after Rick Fox, a former forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, bought Gravity Gaming’s spot in the League of Legends Champion Series for $1 million. The organization has since expanded into other games, including Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Super Smash Bros. and now has some of the most popular faces in esports, like fighting games’ Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, representing it.
“I respect my boss so much if this is the case,” McLean tweeted today about Fox leaving the organization. “He has been a big inspiration to me and if he chooses to leave, I hope he stays in Esports as his passion and support for it is limitless.”
In February 2018 Vision Venture Partners raised $38 million in funding with backing from other professional athletes like Kevin Durant and Odell Beckham Jr., as well as other private equity firms. It’s unclear if Fox’s plans to break with Echo Fox means he will also be leaving VVP.
[Update - 11:51 p.m. 4/30/19]: According to a new report by Richard Lewis for Dexerto the Echo Fox shareholder who used the n-word during email correspondence with other members of the organization is Amit Raizada, one of the other founding partners of Vision Venture Partners.
In a statement to Dexerto, Raizada confirmed that he had used the racial epithet in an email to business partner Jace Hall and that he had since apologized. “I have apologized to Jace, and I would like to apologize to all. My language was wrong and there is no excuse for it. I have stepped down from all day-to-day decision-making with all entities in which Jace Hall and I were involved,” he said.
However, Raizada denies that he ever used racially abusive language toward Rick Fox or threatened his family. “Amit Raizada denies all of Rick Fox’s claims and has never used a racial epithet towards or threatened Rick Fox or anyone in his family. Until recently, Mr. Fox and Mr. Raizada enjoyed a 20-year friendship and business relationship. Mr. Raizada is saddened by the end of both,” the PR firm Digital Strategies said on behalf of Raizada in an email to Dexerto.