Winterfox Owner: Badawi Asked For Payment to Pull Alex Ich from Tournament
Claims TDK would have been subject to possible forfeit
Winterfox owner Brian Cordry has alleged that Renegades co-owner Chris Badawi offered to pull Renegades mid-laner Alex Ich from competing for TDK in the 2015 Spring Promotion Tournament if financial compensation was provided by Winterfox. It is possible that doing so would have prevented TDK from fielding a full roster, thus resulting in their forfeiture from the tournament.
In a statement sent to GameSpot following the banning of Chris Badawi from the LCS last week, Cordry recounts his conversation with the Renegades co-owner and Riot Esports' reaction when Cordry approached them about the offer.
Cordry's statement is as follows:
"I first met Chris Badawi online, via a mutual friend who helped us share contacts in early February, while Badawi was still working with Team Liquid. I was notified that Badawi was looking to form his own team and that he was potentially interested in buying out the contract of one of my players. After some email exchanges, we decided mutually that the trade wasn't in either of our best interest. Badawi was both professional and friendly, very clearly a charismatic guy that I felt had good motives. Besides a follow-up email shortly after, I didn't have any more contact with Badawi until the relegation tournament came around.
Winterfox had just chosen to play against Team Dragon Knights as our relegation opponents, when I saw a report on a rumor that Narakyle would be replaced by Alex Ich for the relegation tournament. I was shocked and somewhat dismayed by this report – we had chosen TDK at least partially based on the fact that Narakyle had an exceptionally bad performance against NME. Alex Ich would be a massive upgrade, but we were already locked into our choice. I looked to reach out to Badawi immediately via email for confirmation on this rumor. Our next conversations were all via Skype, and typically via voice rather than text chat. As such, my experiences with Badawi are all unsubstantiated – I don't have proof of them. It's also worth noting that as this conversation happened months ago and as I have no recording of it, it's possible that some of the details have been lost to time. Here is my best memory of it, though:
Our voice call started out innocently enough – I was simply calling to verify that Alex Ich would be subbing for TDK in the promotional tournament. However, instead of a confirmation, Badawi told me that he (representing Alex, as his team owner and contract holder) and TDK were still in talks. He seemed genuinely concerned that we didn't know that Alex was potentially substituting. He told me that he had instructed Alex to tell Pobelter that he could be possibly subbing, while they were on the analyst desk together the week before. Unfortunately, Pobelter hadn't relayed this information, so the team didn't know before we made the decision. I was frustrated but understanding, and Badawi expressed his sympathy that we had selected without full information, which he ensured had not been his intention. But instead of letting the conversation end, Badawi continued it. He told me that he wasn't letting Alex sub for TDK because he wanted to knock Winterfox out of the LCS, but because they were going to pay Alex. Alex would remain on Misfits regardless of TDK making the LCS, but this wasn't something he could turn down, as he had a family to feed (which I understood completely). Badawi again mentioned that the deal wasn't finalized with TDK, and that it was possible that he could call it off.
At this point, it became clear to me where the conversation was leading, and why we were speaking via voice rather than text, and I was very apprehensive. I asked Badawi what would make him refuse to finalize the agreement with TDK; he told me that as it was strictly a business decision without commitments to benefit Alex, that if Alex were to get offered more money to not play, that would be the wiser decision. Again, I pressed him – was he referring specifically to me offering him money to not play? He confirmed that conclusion could be a possible option. At this point I stopped him; I told him that I didn't think what he was implying (he hadn't actually voiced the idea himself yet) was legal, and I was very uncertain if it would be ethical. He comforted me on the former – as an ex-lawyer who was consulting lawyers of his own, he was confident this would be a legal move. Alex wasn't contracted to TDK, he was contracted to Badawi, who had the option to rent out his services. He once more reminded me that it was strictly a business decision for Alex – he had a family to feed. Badawi was very good at portraying this as a positive, something that would benefit both myself and Alex. Taking him at his word on the legality of this option, I told him that I was still uncertain this would be something that would be moral or in line with Riot's rules. I asked him what would happen to TDK if I took him up on this – would they just forfeit? Yes, they would be unable to field a roster, so they would likely forfeit. It would essentially be a buy-in back into the LCS for my team. I asked him what kind of money he was talking about. He told me that he had been advised not to give a number, but if I made a good offer, something like double what TDK was offering him, he would take it. Badawi headed off what I'm sure he presumed would be a concern of mine, stating that he wouldn't be taking any of the money, it would all be going directly to Alex and his family. I told him that I needed to talk to Riot and see if they would be okay with something like this. We ended the call and I looked to reach out to Riot immediately.
While I tried to get a hold of a member of the Riot esports team to speak with, I mulled over the offer. Badawi was VERY good at making everything seem kosher; although it didn't really sit right with me morally, it was a huge temptation. Knowing the publicity and financial support that is gained from being in the LCS, and knowing what we would “lose” by dropping out, from a business standpoint, it would make sense to take an offer like this. I was worried that something like this would resound poorly with the community, and would also instill a feeling in my players that I didn't believe that they could beat TDK with Alex Ich, which wasn't true. Ultimately, I was against the idea, but I wanted to run it by Riot before I made a final decision. I got ahold of a member of the esports team and explained the situation to him. I went into as much detail as I could about my conversation with Badawi, but just as now, I could not provide proof as it was all via voice chat.
He was in utter disbelief – it felt like he didn't want to believe what I was saying could have actually transpired – which was enough of an affirmation that Riot would not be okay with a situation like this. But he hammered it home clearly enough for me with a statement that if what I was saying was true, and if I accepted an offer like this, and there was proof of it, then myself, Chris Badawi, and Alex Ich would face massive punishments, most likely permanent bans from any activity in the LCS whatsoever. I asked the Rioter if there would be any repercussions for having the conversation with Badawi; he informed me that they would question Badawi about it, but as there was no proof of the conversation, there would likely not be (unless Badawi corroborated my story). As I finished the conversation with the Rioter, I noticed I'd received a written message from Badawi: he told me that upon further reflection, he didn't think “it” would be in line with Riot's rules. I confirmed that I'd just gotten off the call with Riot and that his reflection (and my earlier trepidation) were correct – this was far out of line. I thanked Badawi, wished him and Alex luck, and we went our separate ways.
I do not believe that Riot took any action against Badawi for our conversation, as it was an unsubstantiated claim that I made. I thought about going public with the story immediately, but decided against it. In my conversation with the Rioter, he advised that it would be best to just focus on winning, which I ultimately agreed with. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be – Alex played fantastically and helped TDK defeat our team to knock us out. I spoke privately with some friends and advisers about the incident and they all suggested I go public, and I did consider it. But at this point I decided it was far too late to out a story like this – it would look fabricated, or at the very least, like we were massive sore losers. I rationalized in my head that Badawi was likely just looking out for the well-being of Alex like he told me he was at the time. I even had further, positive interactions with Badawi: we had a very professional, above-the-table talk about an investor that was interested in acquiring WFX's NACS spot. He's nice, he's complimentary, he's persuasive, he seems like a very genuinely good guy. It wasn't until I started hearing that other owners such as Steve from Team Liquid were having run-ins with him that I started lamenting not talking to anyone. When Travis Gafford approached me, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this experience.
I'd like to close with some clarifications and reinforcements of things I've said. First, I have no proof of this, other than Badawi's written admittance that upon his reflection, “it” wouldn't be in line with Riot's rules. I never had any contact whatsoever with Alex Ich in any part of this matter (I considered reaching out to him but decided it would be futile) – it's entirely possible, and was noted by Riot, that Badawi might not have had the jurisdiction to even bring something like this up or represent Alex in this way. I didn't bring this up with anyone outside of the Rioter I spoke with and a few friends, and I have no reason to believe that Misfit's manager Rob nor new co-owner Montecristo (and potentially even Alex Ich) knew about this interaction. Badawi was exceptional at using careful language to make the critical words come out of my mouth rather than his, and to make me believe that such a violation of competitive integrity could be okay. As such, I believe that Riot was justified in their ruling against him."