Controversial Street Fighter champion banned from several major tournaments

Seon-woo

Screenshot: Evo

South Korean fighting game player Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee revealed last night that he has been banned from attending several major community events, including this year’s Evolution Championship Series (Evo). While the news came as a shock, many who knew the highly accomplished contestant controversial past consider it a long time coming.

Evo and Combo Breaker (arguably the second most important grassroots tournament in the fighting game community) contacted Lee via email to inform him that he would not be allowed to participate in their events, according to screenshots Lee posted on Twitter. Both emails cite unspecified violations of each event’s code of conduct policies and offer refunds for Lee’s entry fee.

Talk with KotakuEvo General Manager Rick Thiher explained that the event is “committed to fostering a safe environment for our players and fans” and that the organizers require competitors and attendees to “work with Evo to build a supportive community that treats each other with respect and dignity.” This expectation, he continued, is shared by other events like Combo Breaker, Community Effort Orlando, East Coast Throwdown and the Intercontinental Fight Club, all of which also banned Lee.

“Evo will not publicly discuss individual execution decisions, but will take the necessary steps to uphold our code of conduct and create a welcoming environment at Evo competitions,” Thiher added. “These efforts are vital to the future of Evo and the experience we strive to create for our community.”

Kotaku also contacted Lee, but did not hear back before publication.

“I rightly believe this can be sorted with proper conversation,” Lee wrote in a Twitter message. “I hope the organizers will speak up and explain exactly what is the cause of action that denied my entry. From these organizers too, I demand a proper apology that caused financial and mental stress during my planning of various overseas trips to attend these events and reverse their decision to refuse my entry.

Lee’s statement also detailed several previous incidents of not being allowed to participate in high-level fighting game tournaments. What he hasn’t done, unsurprisingly, is address potential reasons why tournaments don’t want him, and there are plenty.

While previously unknown, Lee quickly became a household name in the fighting game community thanks to his third-place finish in Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition at Evo 2010. He spent the next few years earning even more Evo Medals and performing well in various fighting games including Street Fighter x Tekken, Street Fighter V, samurai fightand Guilty Equipment Effort. Lee’s tournament wins were naturally followed by sponsorship deals with companies like Mad Catz, Razer and Monster Energy.

But in 2018, Lee made headlines for different reasons when he was accused of domestic violence against his now ex-wife. A follow-up survey by its then-sponsor, esports organization Panda Global, found these allegations credible and removed Lee from its roster. Lee also purposely walked away from the Capcom official street fighter tournaments for a year, while contesting allegations of abuse for which he was arrested, found guilty by a South Korean court and fined.

Lee’s shameless return to competition after a year’s absence drew considerable backlash, particularly when Evo himself praised him for his “triumphant return” after winning samurai fight in 2019. At the time, Evo was still a grassroots operation, but the tournament was recently purchased by Sony following the departure of co-founder and CEO Joey “Mr. Assistant” Cuellar following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Rather than keep his nose clean, however, Lee continued to cause trouble. Last year, for example, Lee was would havesomething coordinated with friends scam a newbie Street Fighter V tournament he organized with the Korean streaming site AfreecaTV, his biggest sponsor at the time.

Discord screenshots show Lee encouraging the person who won this event, a master level player in other fighting games, not to increase his Street Fighter V rank too high for fear of arousing suspicion. After those details leaked, Lee angrily addressed his accusers via Twitch calling them “bastards” and “dumpsters” who only wanted to tear him down.

Lee eventually apologized, but not before AfreecaTV dropped him as a sponsored streamer.

As for how Lee is taking these bans, he went on his first stream on Twitch after hearing the news saying it was okay for him to use the n-word talking to players of black fighting games. racist comments, he later explained, earned him a seven-day suspension from the streaming platform, but Lee still doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. Instead, he chose to paint the whole thing as some sort of insidious plot against an innocent man.

“I did a stream that explained what happened to me because of Combo Breaker and Evo and then I got banned,” Lee told sympathetic viewers during a YouTube live stream early this morning. “Is it just a coincidence? This is not hate speech. If you look at my last stream, it wasn’t hate speech. It wasn’t racism. But people who hate Infiltration, they only cut this moment and maybe send it to Twitch global.

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