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Pro CS:GO players issue open letter, challenge integrity of their ownership

Players say a dispute over a new league will limit their income

Photo of Counter-Strike GO player at the ESL CS:GO ProLeague Finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil
ESL CS:GO ProLeague Finals Sao Paulo, Brazil
Helena Kristiannson/ESL

Veteran esports player Scott “SirScoots” Smith has posted a letter on behalf of players on five of the world’s most high-profile Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams. In that letter, Smith, along with 25 of CSGO’s best players, claim to have lost trust in the ownership of those teams.

“We realize that we might be at the point where eSports as an industry is now just too big for trust alone to reasonably protect everyone’s interests,” the letter states. “Either way, you can’t have trust without honesty, and you can’t have honesty without transparency.”

The letter details a controversy stemming from the inception of the Professional Esports Association (PEA) earlier this year. The team-owned organization’s stated goal was to allow both players and owners to receive a 50 percent share of profits, as well as a “suite of financial benefits and services to players, including retirement and investment planning, health insurance and more,” according to a press release issued in September.

Founding teams were Team Solomid (TSM), Cloud9, Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), Immortals, NRG eSports and compLexity Gaming. The organization was launched with a planned a 10-week season and a prize pool of $1 million in its first year.

Today’s open letter alleges that the ownership has disenfranchised the players by maneuvering to control a majority vote on the PEA’s controlling board. It goes on to claim that information has been withheld from players, and that their right to choose where and when they compete is being unfairly limited.

“The PEA started hosting rules committee meetings in early November,” the letter states. “Our player representatives started developing concerns about its voting structure right from the start. We were told that committee decisions would be decided by a simple majority of seven votes: three belonging to our player reps, two belonging to reps selected by the team owners, and the final two belonging to the PEA itself.

“The league commissioner, Jason Katz, would have one of these two PEA votes. When our player reps pointed out that this meant we could always be out-voted by the league and the owners, Jason said that it was designed this way intentionally  —  to help avoid stalemates. He said that the PEA votes should be considered unbiased and that even as Commissioner he would be a trustworthy, unbiased voter.”

ESL Pro League logo
The issue at hand is whether players can also participate in the ESL Pro League

Earlier this month, the letter claims, the PEA determined that its players would be required to abandon the ESL Pro League, currently the largest and most lucrative international venue for competitive CSGO play. To do so without the express consent of the players, the letter states, is a step too far.

“If you’re wondering how the PEA and our team owners can just force us out of a major competition,” Smith’s post asks, “you’re wondering the same thing we were about two weeks ago.

“When the PEA and our owners first spoke more openly about their ability to tell us where we can and can’t play, we asked them what gave them the right. Their response was very direct: It’s in your contracts. This came as a shock  —  our owners had always given us the clear impression that we held the final say when it came to where we competed. In a profession where so much of your income depends on your performance and brand exposure, being able to choose where you play is vital. We expressed our disagreement to the PEA and our owners, and pointed out that what was now happening contradicted just about everything they had said back in September, but they still stuck to their position. As Jason Katz, who had described himself a few months before as a trustworthy and unbiased party, told one group of players: ‘Things change.’”

The impassioned letter concludes by asking other players and fans alike to join in the conversation, and asks for team owners to return to the bargaining table for an open and transparent conversation.

Polygon has reached out to commissioner Jason Katz for comment.

The PEA has yet to issue a public response, but both owners and Smith, the de facto player representative, have taken to social media for a piecemeal approach.

On Reddit, co-founder and CEO of Cloud9 Jack Etienne stated that, “I always have and will continue to do the best for my players.” He went on to add that Scott, “has always gone out of his way to make teams look bad. When you have the whole story I’m sure you will feel better about the situation.” He said his own formal statement was forthcoming.

On Twitter, Smith indicates that he expected some fallout from his name being attached to the open letter.

“If I have bias,” Scott wrote, “it’s against bullshit.”

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