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Tainted Minds scandal: what we know and what’s disputed

Here’s what you need to know about the OCE controversy.

Update, 4/13: An update has been posted at the bottom of this story after a statement from Riot Games and a response from player Cake.

Update, 4/4: An update has been posted at the bottom of this story after a new statement released by Tainted Minds.

On February 13, Oceanic Premier League League of Legends players Ryan “ShorterACE” Nget, Aaron “ChuChuZs” Bland, Andrew “Rosey” Rose, and Tristan “Cake” Cote-Lalumiere and coach Nicholas “Inero” Smith walked out of Tainted Minds’ gaming house for the final time, claiming they were unable to work in the environment provided by the Tainted Minds organization.

In the time since, a flurry of contradictory statements have come out from the various parties involved. Let’s try and work through them. There’s a TL;DR at the end for the impatient.

What isn’t disputed

While much of the information released in the weeks following the departures from Tainted Minds has been in conflict, a few pieces of information within the timeline seem congruent with all sides of the story.

One: a large portion of the conflict centered around the living arrangements of the players, coach and team manager, “Fasffy”. Tainted Minds decided to be one of the first teams in the Oceanic Premier League (OPL) to have their players live and practice together within a gaming house, standard practice for teams in more established regions.

Another: both sides agreed to move into the house, according to statements. At the time, the players’ group included Inero, Cake, ShorterACE and Fasffy. The house was chosen as a temporary residence, with a plan to fill out the roster, start practice as soon as possible, and possibly moving to a better option in the near future. The team moved into the house and shortly after it secured the signing of players Mark “Praedyth” Lewis and Aaron “ChuChuZ” Bland, according to the statements of both TM and Fasffy.

A third: upon moving into the house, many of the conditions were seen as unsuitable by the players, manager and coach, all of whom were living at the house at the time, as well as lacking some of the basic stipulations outlined in the contracts that had been signed by all parties.

These issues, according to statements from both sides, but first outlined in a statement by Cakes, included:

  • No gaming PCs
  • No suitable internet
  • No air conditioning for the house or the gaming room
  • Too few trash cans
  • No way to do the laundry at the house

According a statement released after Cakes’, TM said they worked to resolve these issues, though they did not confirm in their statement whether or not the issues had actually been resolved.

This bulk of these issues were asked to be solved about two weeks before December 22, the start of the Australian holiday season in which offices are generally closed until January 9. A closure of this length would leave the team without some of the resources needed for practice over the course of the entire three week period.

According to her own statement, Fasffy acted as the designated point of contact between the Tainted Minds organization and the players, up until the 9th of February after agreements could not be reached in regards to her contract.

Many of these issues were still outstanding on February 6 when a Riot-hosted mediation — which had been delayed twice before that date — was held between the management of Tainted Minds and the players, coach and manager. This mediation was conducted by Riot’s Head of Oceanic Esports, Daniel Ringland.

One week later, Rosey, ShortACE, Cakes, ChuChuZ and Inero left the house and announced their free agency on Twitter. The players had done so after seeking private legal council, which notified Tainted Minds that it was the council’s opinion that the contracts the players signed had been breached and that the players were to be released from those contracts.

In the time since then, both parties have issued a number of statements with conflicting reports of many of the events that lead up to this:

Sources:

Tainted Minds

Cakes’ statements: one, two and three

Fasffy

What the teams says happened

Tainted Minds released its own statement responding directly to many of the claims made in Cakes original post. TM outlined the reasons it felt it had done its due diligence in addressing these issues.

Among these were a suggested move to another house on January 12, as well as an attempt to fix the internet by installing a second line, something the players requested just before moving into the house. TM also provided PCs to the players, though well after the move-in date. In an attempt to combat the hottest summer on record for Australia, TM also installed a variety of fans and “AC for the PC.”

TM was especially surprised, according to their statement, by the departure of the players so shortly after the mediation with Riot.

By the time of mediation with Riot on February 6, 2017, it appeared the majority of the issues had been resolved, although a few minor problems remained. These minor issues were subsequently resolved.

More seriously still, Tainted Minds raised questions about the identity of the person writing the players’ contracts. The person, according to the statement, was a friend of Fasffy’s that offered to do the work pro bono, though TM were not able to verify the author’s identity at the time. TM went on to state, “Many of the outlining issues have directly or indirectly snowballed from these poorly written contracts.”

Finally, in response to Cakes’ issues with his place on the Global Contract Database, TM stated that, on the advise of its legal council that “the grounds stated for termination were not legally sufficient under the termination provision in the team members’ contracts and were therefore of no effect.”

All through its statement, Tainted Minds pointed blame to Fasffy, as it was through her that a majority of the communication — the point of major breakdown between the organization and the team — had gone through.

According to the statement, all of the evidence of the situation, including the screenshots from the post itself, have been turned over to a third party for verification.

What the players say happened

The first statement made on the issue was done so by Cakes on March 15 and outlined a list of grievances he had with the environment.

The most serious issue for Cakes, however, was that his name had not been removed from the Global Contract Database. This would prevent him from moving to another team, even after his contract had been terminated.

Cakes followed up this first post with a second that released full chat logs and screenshots in a google doc that includes hundreds of conversations from inside the organization.

Following the Tainted Minds statement, Cakes, in a TwitLonger post, responded to the individual claims made in the statement. Of the things addressed, the most serious was in regards to the portion of the TM statement that had suggested the issues remaining after the Riot mediation had only been minor.

By a few minor problems remaining over 2 months after our arrival, here is the list

- No working internet

- Did not receive the computer we were promised

- Frequent power outages

- Aircon issues

- Have not been paid my december's invoice

- Asked for my buyout in early january and never received an answer

- Washer/dryer issues

- Was not able to scrim in 3 weeks.

"FEW MINOR PROBLEMS"

Among the other issues refuted by Cake is the blame placed on Fasffy, stating that the players themselves were more than happy to talk to the organization themselves, but had been told to only go through Fasffy.

Fasffy released her own statement in which she offers an outline of the events that lead up to the issues, starting in August of 2016 with a meeting between herself and TM management.

She refutes the idea that she is to blame, providing her own screenshots where she feels the TM statement cut conversations off too early to provide the whole story, going into detail on the claims made by both Cake and Tainted Minds in regards to almost everything from the Air Conditioning and internet to the rubbish bins and curtains.

Hers is also the only response to TM’s that remarks on the offer to change houses that had been presented on January 12, arguing that changing houses two months after the initial issues had been raised — and not fixed — and just a week before the beginning of the OPL split would be even worse for the players.

She goes on to address the issues with the contracts TM claimed were “poorly written.” In her statement she says,

Tainted Minds were given every opportunity to read over the contracts and have legal advice of their own until they were happy with them (they even stipulated intentions of doing so) with them when they handed them over to the other parties to sign(players, coach and myself), at no point did I send of contracts to anyone without their approval or them being cc’d into the email itself. They’ve since decided now that they’re unhappy with them because they are failing to uphold their end of what they agreed to.

According to her statement, she was signed to a modified version of the player contract herself — this is in keeping with details from the TM statement. This meant she was supposed to receive a PC of her own that she never received, and she says the same is true for Inero.

In further issues with her contract, she explains that she was working far more hours than had been stipulated and was not receiving the payments set aside by Riot for the Team Manager or the Player Handler — both roles she occupied according to her statement.

Riot’s actions

The only major player remaining in the story is Riot Games. According to the statements from Cake, and Fasffy as well as Tainted Minds, the involvement of Riot began when its Oceanic branch was approached by members of the team to ask for mediation between them and their organization. Riot encouraged them to work the matter out among themselves first, as is company policy, before the more drastic step of mediation could be administered. After an agreement couldn’t be reached, Riot agreed to help mediate the discussion.

According to the first statement from Cake, the first Riot OCE employee chosen for the mediation recused himself due to a friendship with Fasffy that he felt could be a conflict of interest. The next Riot employee placed on the case was Daniel Ringland, who ultimately performed the mediation.

As stated by all parties involved, the details of what was said in the mediation is subject to a Riot non-disclosure agreement, however, Riot did provide their own post, shortly after Cakes’ original Twitlonger, detailing events from their perspective.

The parts that stand out in this post are the way Riot responded to two specific claims made in the original post by Cake.

The first relates to a claim made by Cake that Ringland himself should have never been allowed involvement in the mediation due to his relationship with Tainted Minds investor John Mcrae.

Mcrae is the owner and operator of Riot’s New Zealand High School league, NZGC, a league that Ringland also oversees. Cake also claims Ringland was the one who convinced Mcrae to invest in the Oceanic esports scene originally.

The Riot post, curiously authored by Ringland himself, responds to these claims of bias by stating:

We take the suggestion of being biased towards teams over players very seriously. All our relationships within the league are on a professional level and of equal footing. We want the best for all those who take part, so it is of great importance to us that we give every faction equal amounts of respect and attention.

The second point the statement addresses from Cakes’ post is a claim he makes about the Global Contract Database. Cake claims the database had, briefly, 13 players listed under Tainted Minds, but was quickly updated without a time stamp to bring the roster size back down to 10.

In his post, Ringland confirms that Riot OCE allowed Tainted Minds to field a 13-man roster. He says this was done due to the “unprecedented circumstances,” surrounding the situation so that they could still field a team for the upcoming week of OPL competition.

As for the lack of time stamps on the database itself, Ringland explains it as an error in their software that doesn’t register cell deletion as an edit to the database and therefore the time of last edit must be changed manually. The players were removed and the roster size was taken back down to the league standard 10.

However, as Cake states in his post, it is unclear within the official Oceanic Premier League rules why this change was allowed to happen at all. As Cake points out, under section 3.2 Roster Requirements the stated rule is that, “a team may have no more than 10 players on its OPL roster at any given time.” There is not, within the rules provided, any indication of a set of circumstances that would allow for a temporary addition of players due to outstanding circumstances. Neither Riot nor Ringland has made a statement in regards to these rules at this time.

The final section of Riot OCE’s statement suggests that while they would like to keep these matters private and between teams, they feel they have an obligation to better communicate with their fans as well as the teams and organizations on issues like this in the future.

On March 17, the day after the original Riot OCE statement, Riot’s North American esports branch announced it would be looking into the issues itself in greater detail:

With more news likely to come of the investigation performed by Riot as well as the possibly of additional statements being made on the part of the players or the organization, Rift Herald will continue to update this story as it develops.

TL;DR: Four Tainted Minds players and one coach left the organization after disagreements about proper living arrangements for the team. This led to a series of statements and disputes regarding the players’ contracts, and the whole event is currently being investigated by Riot.

Update, 4/4: Tainted Minds released a statement Tuesday morning formally asking Riot Games to remove Cake and Rosey from the Global Contract Database. With these two players released, all of the players that were originally in dispute with the Tainted Minds organization have been released from their contracts with the organization and Riot Games. While this likely brings the major parts of the dispute between players and the organization to a close, Riot’s official investigation into the circumstances that led to this dispute are still on-going.

Update, 4/13: On Thursday morning Riot officially responded with a full competitive ruling after their investigation. According to Riot’s statement Tainted Minds will not be expelled from the OPL, “due to the fact that Tainted Minds made efforts in good faith to correct ongoing issues based upon player feedback and otherwise fulfilled obligations.” The organization will, however, be fined 7,000 AUD ($5,303) as well as being placed on “competitive probation” for a sixth month period. According to Riot, any other rulings in regard to contractual violations with players or coaches will result in the team’s expulsion from the league.

Riot also addresses many of the specific claims made by both sides in their including those in-regards to the housing disputes. According to their statement Riot feels that, “at no point do we believe that the players’ safety was in jeopardy.” And that Tainted Minds attempted to fix the issues that were within their power to correct including reaching out to the landlord of the property via email.

The final point Riot responded to were the claims of conflict of interest between the Tainted Minds organization and Riot OCE.

We found no evidence that Tainted Minds was treated differently than any other organization would have been in the same position, and no business relationship existed—public or otherwise—between companies affiliated with Tainted Minds’ owners and Riot team members or Riot. Specifically, the amateur high school tournament run by a company affiliated with an owner of Tainted Minds is supported by Riot through the same program as all high school competition in the region and run by a completely separate department in the OCE office.

The most vocal of the players, Cake, also released a statement of his own on Thursday evening in response to Riot’s Competitive Ruling.

In his latest statement Cake refutes several of Riot’s claims including the statement that players were never in danger, citing the record breaking high temperatures Australia has experience so far this year.

Cake goes on to take issues with the claims that there was no bias on the part of Riot stating that it wasn’t a business relationship but a personal one that lead his accusations of bias against Riot.

... after telling Daniel Ringland our intentions to not play, he went to John Mcrae and told him our intentions, and Tainted Minds started looking for new players. I do not think that is within his task as a Riot employee to go to his friend and reveal information said in a private environment.

Cake says that this is the reason that Tainted Minds was able to field 13 players on their roster in the Global Contract Database, a violation of Oceanic Rule 3.2 Roster Requirements, something that Riot’s statement does not address.

Cake closes his statement by saying:

I'll be clear here, I am not going to stop until one of these 2 situations happen.

1. Tainted Minds get banned from OPL and Daniel Ringland is fired.

2. Nick, Fasffy, my teammates and I get paid damages for Riot screwing up on this matter.If nothing happens I'm really wondering how you will publicly announce my competitive ruling without taking another PR hit.

Your turn Riot.