The Griffin Gaming Scandal

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Recently, Korean League of Legends team, Griffin, found themselves embroiled in a scandal with Chinese team, JD Gaming. Despite taking second place in Korea and qualifying for the World Championship after only two years of competition, Griffin dismissed their head coach just prior to their team’s appearance at Worlds. At the heart of this, is a conflict between general manager, Cho Gyu-nam, and head coach, Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho. In particular, cvMax alleged an 18-year-old Griffin player, Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok, who was pressured into taking a five-year contract with Chinese team, JD Gaming.

After his dismissal, cvMax was vocal about what happened. He alleged that Cho Gyu-nam meddled in player affairs and contracts. He alleged that Cho Gyu-nam pressured former Kanavi into taking a contract with JD gaming.

According to Inven Global, cvMax claimed:

With [Kanavi responding that he will think about JD Gaming’s offer for a complete transfer], Cho accused Kanavi of tampering and told him that Cho would be trying to solve this situation properly. Soon after, Cho told Kanavi that he has to go to JDG and that he has to pick from a 3-year or 5-year contract. 

Kanavi wanted a 1-year contract, but he said if he had to choose between 3 years and 5 years, he would choose 3 years. [However], Cho had Kanavi signed for 5 years and 200 M KRW per year [approximately $170,000 USD] and gained 1 B KRW as a transfer fee for himself [approximately 850,000 USD].

According to ESPN, cvMax also alleged that Griffin’s substitute players suffered poor working conditions:

CvMax also alleged poor working conditions for Griffin’s substitute players, including Kanavi and others. He said that substitute players were not given chairs to sit on while practicing, that they would eat leftovers from the starting players and were not allowed to order takeout food during the night.

This story does have a happy ending, insofar as Riot and KeSPA are investigating the incident, and JD Gaming has announced that Kanavi is now a free agent. However, it remains to be seen what the outcome of the investigation will be.

This story continues to show the questionable treatment of esports players by their teams and management. In this case, the general manager fired the coach who questioned his conduct in allegedly pressuring an 18-year-old player into taking a contract he didn’t want and that gave the team approximately $850,000 USD. It is increasingly clear that there is a lack of representation for players’ rights in esports. 

We strongly encourage all players to reach out to us before they enter any negotiations with teams or organizations, and even more so if they feel they are being pressured by a team or organization to do something they don’t want to do. We are a licensed talent agency with licensed lawyers, all conversations and consultations with our lawyers are privileged.