Carlos Rodríguez Santiago, G2's Frontman CEO, Resigns Amid Controversy
Rodríguez took his team to new heights—now he walks away from it all disgraced.
It’s been eight years since Carlos Rodríguez Santiago founded G2 Esports. It took less than eight days for him to lose it all.
The brash Spanish frontman CEO resigned on Friday, a week after a video he posted of him celebrating in a Romanian club with self-described misogynist influencer Andrew Tate sparked massive controversy across social media.
Rodriguez accomplished much—finals appearances at the League of Legends World Championship, trophies in more than a handful of games. But it did not end well.
The 32-year-old CEO said goodbye in a video posted to his Twitter account on Friday afternoon.
“I take full responsibility for everything that went on in the past few days,” Rodríguez said. “Trust me when I say, I just feel f****** destroyed about it. I hope you guys remember me for the good things. I hope that is my legacy, the good things. Just know I’m very grateful for all of you.”
His resignation comes after a tumultuous week following the video of him and Tate partying on Sept. 17.
Shortly after it posted and received significant backlash, Rodríguez took to Twitter to defend his actions. “Nobody will ever be able to police my friendships. I draw my line here. I party with whoever the fuck I want,” he wrote later that day.
On Sept. 18, he posted two apology tweets—clearly written by a publicist—but continued to like a series of tweets defending his actions and pushing back on cancel culture. Then he went dark.
But the real knife to G2’s business came on Tuesday, when three different reporters broke the story that G2 had not been chosen for partnership in the 2023 VALORANT Champions Tour circuit.
The reason? During the tour’s 2022 finale in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sept. 18-19, members of Riot Games esports leadership called an emergency meeting to talk over G2’s application status.
Before the Tate video controversy, many of G2’s employees, including Rodríguez, I’m told, believed that they were a shoe-in for the North American leg of the tour. The team had shopped for Los Angeles real estate weeks earlier, was reportedly in talks to acquire the roster of another American team, XSET, and was making arrangements for support staff. The team had even gone as far as pitching an embargoed interview to Washington Post reporter Mikhail Klimentov to release when their spot in the tour became confirmed.
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Prior to the pandemic in 2020, Rodríguez planned to move to New York and relocate much of the company. The team received a $10 million investment from billionaire Joe Tsai in December 2019, just three months after he purchased the Brooklyn Nets.
The coronavirus outbreak delayed G2’s plans, but the VALORANT slot served as a vital part of getting back on track and expanding its business beyond Europe.
But on Wednesday, “VALORANT” developer Riot Games confirmed the reports. G2 was not selected for any of the three regions.
Within hours, I started receiving messages that Rodríguez’s job was as good as gone.
Now with confirmation, there’s a lot of unease around what comes next for G2.
For as livid as some employees were at Rodríguez for posing with Tate, who TikTok, Instagram and YouTube banned in late August for his misogynistic rhetoric, there were an equal amount of employees who were frustrated with Rodríguez’s lack of humility when called out. Instead of understanding why the association with Tate disappointed the team’s fans, Rodríguez doubled down, embarrassing himself, his staff, his players and his investors.
Despite his flaws—of which there were many—Rodríguez’s forward-facing persona and willingness to go to the mat for his team made the brand the second-most popular esports brand in all of Europe. It also made the team worth an estimated $340 million, according to Forbes.
When Rodríguez founded the team as Gamers2 in 2014, he had little business experience. Then still a “League of Legends” pro and one of the most popular in all of Spain, Rodríguez bootstrapped the team after success selling merchandise.
The team had public relations nightmare after public relations nightmare. In late 2014, Nick “LS” De Cesare accused the team of not paying him. Rodríguez went on the offensive, streaming on Twitch about the dispute and now—in a deleted stream—confusingly pointing out De Cesare’s sexuality (De Cesare is gay). Even I had a weird run-in with Rodríguez early in my career as a reporter, when I reported he’d be acquiring a roster of another team.
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But after years as a CEO, Rodríguez seemingly grew up. When he sat down with me and my former ESPN colleague Arda Ocal for an interview in February 2020, we asked about the past mistakes and how he’s changed.
"If I f*** up, then I f*** up," he said then. "I can't go back. The best thing I could've done is not f*** up. What's the second-best thing I can do? Well, learn something and move on."
Many believe he had changed, and in many ways, he became the darling representative of Riot Games’ League European Championship.
His reaction to the Tate controversy, though, showed the real Rodríguez—the unapologetic, never-wrong alpha male. It cost him his job.