Esports tournament Evo canceled, co-founder removed after allegations of sexual misconduct
Evo, the biggest fighting game event of the year, has been canceled after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced regarding the event's its co-founder and president, Joey Cuellar. In a tweet Thursday night, the event administration announced it intends to parted ways with Cuellar, who would no longer be involved in Evo "effective immediately." Earlier in the day, Cuellar was placed on administrative leave pending a third-party investigation into the allegations.
"We are currently working toward his complete separation from the company and have relieved him of all his responsibilities," the statement said. "Going forward, Tony Cannon will act as CEO; in his position, he will take a leadership role in prioritizing greater accountability across Evo, both internally and at our events."
The esports event, a fixture in Las Vegas since 2005, had previously been scheduled to take place July 4 and moved online due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Its cancellation comes after a number of Evo's partners were beginning to distance themselves from the event. Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, a five-time Evo champion, withdrew from the tournament, as did commentators Kai Kennedy and Shelia "Dapurplesharpie" Moore of Skullgirls. Other commentators, such as James Chen and Stephen Lyon, withdrew pending resolution of the matter.
"Alongside many of the players, I am currently stepping back from my scheduled commentary obligations at Evo," Lyon said in a tweet. "I'm not comfortable doing any work until the allegations are looked into, and we know what involvement [Cuellar] will continue to have."
NetherRealm Studios was the first game maker to remove a title from Evo Online. The company announced on Thursday night it will "stand in solidarity with those who have spoken out against abuse" and pulled Mortal Kombat XI from the event. Capcom the publisher of the popular Street Fighter franchise, quickly followed suit and said they, too, would not participate "in light of the recent accusations of misconduct." Mane6 then pulled Them's Fightin' Herds. Bandai Namco announced "Dragon Ball FighterZ," "SoulCalibur VI" and "Tekken 7" would no longer be a part of the tournament "in response to recent abuse allegations."
As more esports celebrities and properties joined the ranks and defected from the event, Cuellar issued an apology on Twitter.
"I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone. I was young and reckless and did things I'm not proud of," Cuellar tweeted. "I have been growing and maturing over the past 20 years, but that doesn't excuse anything. All I have been trying to do is become a better person. Once again, I'm truly sorry."
Evo announced refunds will be issued to all players who had already paid to participate and that an equivalent donation will be made to Project Hope, a global health and humanitarian organization.
The Washington Post