My name is Chris Shim, CEO of Cloudmonster Inc. and former CEO of Team Dragon Knights (TDK). As you may know, Riot banned TDK last spring. I have decided to disclose what happened as completely as possible. I considered doing a vlog like Monte or even showing all my chatlogs and emails with Riot, but my lawyer advised not to due to the possibility of incurring legal action. So instead, I'm going to write the full account of everything that happened surrounding Riot's investigation and resulting punishment using only the facts, with little commentary from me until the end. I can prove everything I say below.
First, I'd like to thank everyone associated with my company. We didn't have great financial backing, but everyone followed with passion, and did their best to achieve success.
Secondly, thank you to the fans who followed and cheered for us. It may have seemed like I didn't follow the community very closely, but in fact I checked Reddit and the team twitter on a daily basis. We were able to stay motivated for five years and accomplish as much as we did because of the support we received from you.
My entry into esports began after my brother Sean and I started a boba, coffee, and cyber cafe business called Green Forest in 2009. Because our customers loved esports, we decided to host the first Starcraft II tournament in America, as well as many more after that (here is the link to the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgvm-WiFTa8). Running tournaments was difficult and stressful, but it was worth every second to connect with the community. Since then, my love for esports only grew. In 2011, I became very interested in League of Legends, enough to start a new team under the name Team Green Forest.
In 2014, our one-time sponsor MSI had us change our team name to Team Dragon Knights. We made it to the LCS in 2015, but were relegated thereafter. In March of 2016, we decided to engage in a trade with Team Renegades (REN), after which our troubles really began. What follows now is a date by date and, where available, minute by minute retelling of what happened.
March 1st, 2016
7:30 pm: We notified Riot that we were dropping Seraph and Ninja and adding Alex Ich, Flaresz, Trance, and RF Legendary from REN. We said we were not confident in our upcoming mid-lane matchup against Ember since Ninja was banned until the 11th, and after all, the team had performed well with Alex before. We sent Riot the Eligibility and Release Form & Player Services Agreement Summary Sheet. The trade was approved.
March 15th, 2016
05:46 pm: Riot asked us to submit all players' contracts to them by the next day. Riot also asked to talk with Sean the next day before our match regarding the relationship between TDK and Team Renegades (REN).
06:24 pm: Former REN owner Chris Badawi asked if he could join us as a guest to watch the game. We asked Riot, but Riot denied the request.
07:09 pm: Riot asked us to send them all our players' contracts immediately.
07:26 pm: Riot asked us to provide them with the players' contracts via email by 8pm, saying that failure to respond by then will be seen as effective guilt of negligence and further potential collusion.
08:08 pm: We sent contracts for Kez, Bischu, Ohq, and Trance to Riot.
08:12 pm: We sent contracts for Alex Ich and Flaresz to Riot.
08:15 pm: Riot requested contracts for Thy and RF Legendary.
08:27 pm: We sent RF Legendary's contract to Riot.
08:29 pm: We notified Riot that Thy's contract was on a different computer and would be retrieved later.
08:55 pm: Riot employee explained that Riot was investigating us. Riot also discussed the potential promotion match-up between TDK and REN. Riot believed REN attempted to take and sometimes succeeded in taking illegal actions in the past, and believed that TDK was connected to REN and Chris Badawi.
10:06 pm: We sent the contract for Thy to Riot.
March 16th, 2016
TDK played its 2016 NACS Spring Playoffs match against APEX. One of our members overheard a conversation between APEX members in the bathroom in which the APEX members discussed not having proper visas. Sean was investigated at the studio during the matches. A Riot representative asked him if TDK and REN had merged. The representative clarified that there was no problem with the player trade, but they did have suspicions that there had been a merger. Sean was asked to check whether there had been or would be a merger and asked when the March 1 trade agreement contract had been signed.
March 17th, 2016
2:30 pm: In a Skype meeting with Riot, I told what I'd heard about APEX's visa issues. The Riot representative was extremely angry and called me a liar. They said I had probably heard about the visa issues from MonteCristo. They believed Monte and I were working together unfaithfully. I yelled back, saying that one of my team members heard it in the bathroom. I said Riot should verify APEX's visa status and asked whether Riot would let APEX play without proper visas.The representative informed me that Riot was investigating us due to allegations concerning our interactions with Renegades and that I might be punished. I told Riot that I would have my lawyer respond to their questions.
March 18th, 2016
2:07 pm: Riot asked if my lawyer would respond to Riot.
2:28 pm: I informed Riot that I emailed my lawyer and he would respond when he's available.
10:48 pm: My lawyer David Graham emailed Riot:
"My client and Renegades made an oral agreement under which TDK sent player contracts for Seraph and Ninja to Renegades, who sent player contracts for Alex and RF to TDK. They mentioned this to Riot and completed the relevant paperwork before the trade deadline, all within the rules. This agreement was binding and duly carried out by both parties. The parties later created a writing reflecting this agreement, but please understand that in this case a written memorialization was not required legally either to effectuate it or, considering their actions, to prove its existence. Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns."
March 19th, 2016
4:28 pm: Ten NA LCS and CS owners drafted a letter regarding APEX competing in the upcoming promotion tournament without completed visas.
March 21st, 2016
Riot replied with an official statement stating: "APX was always up front and forthright with their visa status. Their visas are approved but are not completed, and the interviews are scheduled for after the promotion tournament. We feel that APX have been and are acting in good faith and the pace of their visa process was in keeping with directives from Riot." The same day, Riot published an article to the public, "Upcoming Changes to NA Spring Promotion Tournament" and delayed the promotion tournament for two weeks.
March 24th, 2016
3:52 pm: We emailed Riot concerning the fact that they had never reached out to us about visa issues; Riot had only talked to APEX and then made this decision. While APEX was the only team having the visa issue, the official statement doesn't specify which team was actually having the problem, which may have lead to the public thinking that we were the one with the problem.
6:12 pm: The Riot representative responded that they do not name or shame in their public posts and that they understood how this could spread potential blame around, but that was their intention when they don't see benefit in calling out anyone in particular.
April 8th, 2016
I visited the studio to watch our games. We lost our promotion match against APEX. One of Riot's staff came to see me and apologized for the investigation. He said, "the trade was fair and no hard feelings." We fist bumped. I said everything is cool and I hope we will continue and perform well later.
April 20th, 2016
4:44 pm: We received an email saying that Riot continued to be concerned and had received serious allegations about the relationship between REN and TDK. Riot said that a secret merger and cross-team ownership would threaten the league. We were then asked to show proof of payment to the players.
April 22nd, 2016
3:10 am: We responded to Riot saying that the trade was made to benefit both TDK and REN and that the teams did not merge and had no plans to merge. The players were returned quickly because they wanted to go back to their homes and take a break as soon as the promotion tournament ended, although that tournament had been delayed for two weeks. I said that the players had been informed of that delay and that payment would be made to them as soon as possible. It is true that I had discussed a potential merger with Monte and Chris Badawi some time before, but I had discussed that with other teams in the past as well; my conversation with REN was neither unusual nor unique and, in any case, never lead to anything.
April 25th 2016
10:32 am: Riot emailed us asking for payment information and asked if the players were staying with us or not.
2:52 pm: I said I would send the payment info when it's complete. I also said that Ninja and Seraph would come back to our team and RF, Flaresz, and Alex would go back to REN. I asked if there was any paperwork that we had to submit before that trade. I also told them that we were considering changing our team name, since MSI was no longer sponsoring us, and wanted to verify the deadline to do so.
April 29th, 2016
3:47pm: Riot emailed us again to ask about the proof of payment. Again, at that point we had already notified the players that there would be a delay in making payments and none of them had any issues with that.
May 2nd, 2016
We sent payment to our players.
May 3rd, 2016
3:14pm: We sent Riot proof of that payment.
May 8th, 2016
9:21am: We received an email from Riot saying that they had concluded their investigation and asked us for a call at 7 pm to go over the results.
7pm: A Riot representative stated that the investigation was over, that there was enough information to ban TDK, that there could be no appeal, and that the ruling would be live within an hour. Riot did not show us any proof of the allegations they had received.
8pm: Riot published the official statement, found here: http://www.lolesports.com/en_US/articles/competitive-ruling-renegades-and-tdk.
May 9th, 2016
5:04 pm: We asked for the reasons for the punishment. Riot responded saying that REN paying the players who were playing for TDK in April was enough to punish us. I was not aware that that had happened. The reason REN did this was made public in Monte's video. Riot told Sean that they might reconsider the ban after May 11th, but later got back to him saying that they'd given it additional consideration internally and would stand by the ban.
May 11th, 2016
Riot introduced us to a prominent NFL team who was interested in acquiring our slot.
Riot never asked us for or showed us any documents to prove or disprove the allegations of merger between TDK and REN. I later showed our corporate ownership information to a journalist with ESPN, but was never asked for that by Riot. I didn't understand what I could do to prove that there was no merger to people who did not seem interested in proof. I don't believe I've ever received a proper explanation of what we did wrong.
Furthermore, throughout this episode, I believe we abided by all of Riot's established rules. I also believe that the punishment was extremely and overly harsh. Because of the ban, I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and an untold amount more in potential future revenue.
As for the reasons for all this, all I have are the same rumors other people hav heard. I've heard that one of Riot's employees was unhappy with TDK and was looking for a reason to punish us. I've also heard that Riot was looking for a way to bring in more famous team owners. I don't know if either of these rumors are true. But the quick and cursory investigation, the lack of any request for proof of a merger between TDK and REN, the decision that "Payment from original team itself [REN] is ban-able," and the introduction to a popular NFL team to sell to almost immediately after the ban make me wonder.
Unfortunately, this episode was not the only time I had problems with Riot; I was also punished for alleged poaching and had to deal with Riot moving the ball at some times and acting much too slowly at others with respect to residency and visa issues for our intended five-Korean player roster. If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to explain these situations in a separate statement as well.In closing, I'd like to take this opportunity to answer some of the questions I have seen on Reddit.
Why did Chris Badawi become a co-owner of TDK in 2015?
In 2015 Spring split CS week 4 March 17th-18th, TDK members had to go back to Korea for their visa interview. However, we still needed players, so I contacted Chris Badawi who let us use his players. It was a nice gesture by him. He was new to League of Legends, so he wanted to join as co-owner to have access to the scene and get to know people. After a while, Riot did not want him to stay as co-owner. Chris Badawi understood the situation and removed himself from TDK. He never rejoined TDK after that.
What happened with REN moving into the old TDK house?
Once TDK was relegated from the 2015 summer split, I had no reason to keep the house. I asked Renegades if they wanted to move in instead, and they did. The owner of the house initially approved me to lease the house, so I signed as guarantor and already had automatic payments setup. Rather than make REN go through that whole process, I just kept those automatic payments up and had REN pay me back.
Why did TDK members play for REN?
At one time, I became aware that multiple teams were having hard times getting the right visas for their players. I reached out to some of those teams and told them they could take players from TDK at no charge as long as the players were okay with playing for them and received at least the LCS minimum salary. Renegades was not the only team who took us up on this offer.
Why did TDK members practice at the REN house?
We rented a new gaming house for 2016 Spring CS. However, Verizon had some problems with our FIOS that required them to redo all the wiring outside the house over a 2 week period. We had no internet during that time, so we ended up practicing at TIP's house for the first week and then REN's house for the second week.
Why did TDK trade Seraph and Ninja for Alex Ich, Flaresz, Trance, and RF Legendary from REN?
It was mutually beneficial for both teams at the time. Ninja was banned and we didn't feel comfortable with our mid-lane matchup against Ember. Again, Riot accepted this trade as well.
Why did TDK and REN discuss a merger?
Although I loved League of Legends, I knew I had to get into other games as well. With this in mind, and realizing we would need to increase our resources, we discussed mergers with multiple organizations going back two years. One of those organizations was REN. However, I wanted TDK to get into the LCS before seriously considering any merger, but this unfortunately didn't happen.
I believe there is nothing more to say about this ban. I am done with Riot Esports.
I am willing to do an AMA and answer any questions you may have, also feel free to follow me on twitter and I will answer questions you ask.