The LCS's Most Consequential Decision
How Riot Games handles allegations of misconduct against the TSM CEO will set important precedent for the league moving forward.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported a series of new allegations of workplace misconduct against TSM and its CEO, Andy “Reginald” Dinh.
It’s a continuation of an investigation that Riot Games opened in late 2021, conducted by a third-party law firm and reported by WIRED in January. But the Post story also contained new information around TSM’s handling of independent contractors and both on-the-record and anonymous accounts from ex-employees about their time at the most high-profile organization in American “League of Legends” and its sister company, Blitz.
As its investigation draws to a close, the League Championship Series will be faced with the most meaningful disciplinary decision since it franchised in late 2017.
How will it handle what is a substantive case against the most valuable esports team’s CEO, and will it be willing to hand down penalties for workplace culture issues and against those outside of the “League of Legends” purview?
Those are the two biggest questions facing Riot Games at this moment, and how it responds will set precedent for the future of the league and the esport. The onus should not only be on Riot—as TSM fields teams in other games, in leagues run by Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Valve, etc.—but no other organization holds the power that Riot does.
Riot hold the keys to TSM’s license for its most valuable asset, its LCS franchise slot, but it also can gate-keep and impact Blitz, which relies heavily on Riot’s APIs for “League of Legends,” “VALORANT,” “Teamfight Tactics” and “Legends of Runeterra.”
It’s no secret that Dinh’s behavior externally is crass, and internally allegedly abusive. It’s been that way for years, to the media, to partners and even documented in seven-year-old videos of arguments between Dinh and his players and teammates. Today, after speaking several times about Dinh’s alleged mistreatment of employees in November, former TSM AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng published a cease and desist and preservation notice he received from TSM’s counsel.
Since the Post story on Wednesday, several sources have given me mixed signals about Riot’s position and how the company will discipline Dinh if its investigation finds misconduct as expected.
First, there’s internal concern around policing company culture issues that don’t directly relate to TSM’s “League of Legends” team.
If matters in Riot’s investigation relate to previous allegations made by Doublelift, or to instances with an LCS or Academy player, coach or analyst, that’s well within Riot’s purview to act. But for the allegations made by employees working in non-Riot-approved roles, outside of “League of Legends” or those at Blitz, there’s concern about how Riot punishing TSM for those transgressions could expose the company to legal liability and/or set bad precedent.