The most recent controversy surrounding Team SoloMid centres around the team’s owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh, their recently acquired star leader Sean “seang@res” Gares, and a North American team association known as the Professional Esports Association (PEA). Whilst this recent spattering of deservedly toxic press around TSM (this piece included) has damaged their brand within the CS:GO space almost irreparably, it is just one short-sighted and ill-fated choice in a long line of historical misdemeanours and failures.
For those that don’t know, or are confused by the many moving elements of the recent PEA drama, here is the short of it:
When the PEA was created, it was created with the public intention of being openly transparent and having its main focus be on the welfare of players – something that pre-existing association (WESA), was deemed to be ineffective in achieving.
ESports history is made. pic.twitter.com/VH8JoSAmR7
— Jason Lake (@JasonBWLake) September 8, 2016
PEA consisted exclusively of North American organisations and appeared to have a structure in place that gave players a voice in all of the association’s decisions. One of the PEA’s goals was to create an NA league that would give revenue sharing to the teams/players, be exclusive to PEA members, and provide benefits to the players (healthcare, retirement packages, etc).
It was recently revealed however, that the PEA had, on behalf of all the players within the association, (and without their knowledge or consent) openly refused to play in one of the biggest NA online leagues – ESL Pro League (or EPL). In response to this breach of trust and open violation of players rights, a letter was penned by long-time community figure ‘SirScoots’ on behalf of 25 of the 35 players within the league.
The letter brought this issue to the attention of the CounterStrike community, openly expressing the lack of transparency within the PEA and the frustrating lack of influence the players actually had in making decisions. The hashtag #playersrights was used in all tweets that went along with this letter.
This PEA stuff is a mess man. Silver lining though, this could finally push on mass for #playersrights
— Cory Gilbert (@MegamanTV) December 23, 2016
Orgs&players should be in this together… #playersrights
— ryx (@ryxCSGO) December 23, 2016
One of the major organisations behind the PEA is Team SoloMid. TSM had recently received a lot of largely positive press for their recent acquisition of two of NA’s biggest free agents seang@res, one of North Americas most experienced and pedigreed in-game-leaders and AWPer Shahzeeb “ShahZaM” Khan, who boasts a massive online following.
Due to TSM’s involvement in the PEA controversy, all the members of TSM’s starting roster had signed the #playersright letter written on their behalf. The signing of this letter was done without the knowledge of team owner, Reginald.
Through Reginald individually talking to the players on his roster, it was impressed upon him that Sean was the driving figure behind the team’s signing of the letter. After learning this, and through a now open message log, Reginald ruthlessly kicked Gares from the roster, referencing the damage that Sean had done to the TSM brand without Regi’s knowledge, as just cause.
— Sean Gares (@seangares) December 23, 2016
Ironically however, kicking Sean for encouraging his teammates to sign a letter supporting players rights, has generated infinitely more brand damage than the letter signing in the first place. As such, with his rash decision not only has Regi made the TSM brand an untouchable and evil logo within the CS:GO space, but has also kicked the most promising element of his new roster – an experienced and talented in-game-leader, traits almost impossible to find in the NA region.
This is not the first time that Reginald has screwed up in a big way. The first foray by TSM into the CS:GO space saw them pick up an entirely Danish roster, formerly known as Dignitas, now playing under the Astralis banner. These Danes playing under the TSM banner won multiple international LANs, were a favourite to win the biggest CS:GO tournaments in the world – ‘The Majors’- and were at times ranked as the second best team in the world. The players within the team had massive personal brands, with their superstar Nicolai “device” Reedtz being described as the best player in the world for a prolonged period of time.
Yet, these Danish players refused to re-sign with the TSM organisation as the team headed into 2016, citing a complete lack of support as validation for their decision to seek new opportunities. Their manager was forced to do all the social media work himself, their salaries weren’t being raised in accordance with their ridiculously successfully 2015 run, and they implied as a whole that TSM weren’t that responsive to any of their suggestions. The Danish core has gone on to become the best team in the world right now, and have created their own player-run organisation.
To replace these world beating Danes, TSM picked up a rat-tag group of washed up and inexperienced NA players that struggled to make it through qualifiers, let alone win tournaments.
One of their new players, Timothy “Autimatic” Ta, soon walked out the door without so much as a grumble from the organisation to stay, and joined another North American team – Cloud9. Upon joining rivals Cloud9, Autimatic made an immediate impact and changed the entire dynamic of the side. With his addition to the C9 roster, they managed to break a 13-year drought for an international LAN win by a North American side – a feat no-one thought possible of the Cloud9 line-up.
So whilst Autimatic lifted the first 250k+ North American Owned CS:GO trophy, and was also announced MVP of the tournament, TSM were left to wonder why they let him go so easily.
Certainly, you could make the argument that there are many poorly run organisations in North American Counter-Strike. Echo Fox, who had paid their player’s exorbitant salaries failed to make a dent within NA play, and then were systematically crushed and destroyed on national TV at ELEAGUE, winning only six rounds over three games play.
Though they struggled to make much of anything from their highly-paid roster, at least they had the positive celebrity face of Rick Fox to promote eSports and his team, and there was never any major, public organisational drama to dirty this roster’s name.
North American CS:GO as a whole is naturally filled with gossip, drama, and controversy. Team owners can make a misstep, players talk trash to one another, and there are more clashing personalities and flare-ups than an episode of Jersey/Geordie Shore. Yet, no team can boast a longer list of catastrophically bad organisational choices than TSM.
Whether it be letting go of potentially the best team in the world, or permanently damaging your brand by kicking someone for justifiably challenging your team owner, Team SoloMid has done it all within the Counter-Strike scene and there is no clear solution in sight for fixing the organisations historic catalogue of failures.