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Griffin and cvMax: what you need to know

The suspension of cvMax comes after months of discontent and rumours in the Griffin camp, but even following investigation it is not clear what the full story truly is.
Griffin and cvMax: what you need to know

On November 19th, former Griffin League of Legends head coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho and manager Cho Gyu-nam were suspended indefinitely from all Riot competitions as a result of a dispute that began with jungler Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok, who was apparently coaxed into signing an unfair contract.

In September, months after Kanavi had joined JD Gaming on loan from Griffin, cvMax left as head coach. As the team was preparing for Worlds, this was regarded as a bit of a shakeup to the roster. cvMax then spoke out on streamer Lee Sang-Ho’s stream shortly thereafter, saying “I can’t get into details too much, I don’t want to yet. I just want to briefly talk about the current situation and move on to enjoy myself.”

He did mention that there was slight trouble with Cho Gyu-nam and that after Summer finals, he was told that he would be fired for “lack of capability” as a head coach. Ahead of Worlds 2019, cvMax was indeed removed from the organisation.

The comments by cvMax also unnerved some of the players from Griffin, who were currently playing at Worlds. Top laner Choi “Sword” Sung-won requested that he no longer make claims about Griffin and that it was making the team nervous. Bot laner Park “Viper” Do-hyeon also made this request, and said that the claims were false.

According to a post from Reddit user Hektor_Ekhein, LCK color caster CloudTemplar outlined some points on his own stream, which a few are listed here:

  1. Riot Korea and Riot China were investigating
  2. The issue went beyond the personal or professional; it allegedly involved tampering and player abuse
  3. Griffin had not made any official remarks at that time, so it was hard to know if cvMax’s claims were true. CloudTemplar also made emphasis on that people working in esports think that the highest value is to protect the players and help them play

In October, Griffin’s parent company, Still8, fired Cho Guy-nam and apologized to cvMax. Riot Korea issued an interim report on their investigation, stating that there has not been any evidence of player tampering.


(Credit: Riot Games)

Former bot laner Han “Force” Sang-Woo came out in support of cvMax, saying that he was “88% responsible for the teams performance,” and “Players followed cvMax with a blind faith; I cannot believe players would say that he isn’t needed in the team anymore. I refuse to believe it.”

JD Gaming revealed several facts on their side of the story, noting that they had contacted Griffin about transferring Kanavi before they spoke to him. They agreed to a three-year contract with Kanavi and Griffin present and that Still8 and Kanavi were in full cooperation.

As a result of all of this, Senators in Korea are proposing an “Esports Athlete Standard Contract Law” which prevents minors from being forced to deal with unfair contracts.

Riot released the results of their investigation on November 20th (KST) which is when they passed down the indefinite suspensions. Their full statement is below:

“We had announced in the mid-announcement on the 29th of October that we will continue to investigate the suspicions and reports.

During the investigation, we were notified of former Griffin head coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho had taken violent measures physically and verbally during his tenure in Griffin. As of this report, we investigated further based on both parties related along with the statements of the witness(es), and were able to identify that there was violence towards some of the players.

In any case, any kind of violence is not permitted in the LCK. Especially as a head coach within the LCK league, violence cannot be justified. It was identified that the verbal abuse towards players was at a level hard to endure as a person through multiple depositions and submitted material, and above all, some of the victims of the violence were minors at the time.

This type of violent behavior is prohibited by the Korean law, or is against general ethical behavior. Therefore, we have concluded that cvMax's behavior is a serious breach against LCK rules.

Addressing the seriousness of this behavior, we impose an 'indefinite suspension' on cvMax. As of this suspension, we clarify that cvMax will not be able to participate in any esports events in any way that Riot Games holds or hosts including the LCK.”

cvMax is currently the coach of DragonX, who has not commented on the situation at this time.

Cho Gyu-nam was also indefinitely banned, and Griffin was fined 100,000,000 KRW or around $85,000 USD, for their involvement. Riot found that Cho had a duty to notify Kanavi’s legal guardians, as he was underage.

He never notified them when Kanavi was faced with potential player tampering. Cho also would have needed to notify Kanavi’s parents of the terms and conditions of the contract and earn their consensus.

They also stated that Cho was closely involved in adding a clause in the contract with Griffin, which excluded the time on loan as part of the contracted period. If the end date of the contract changed, Cho had a duty to notify the Operation Committee but did not do so, which was deemed premeditated.

Griffin themselves were found either being directly involved or ignoring the actions of Cho and cvMax, and now their management and operations will be monitored. If these issues happen again, they could lose their spot in the LCK.

InvenGlobal had an interview with Choi “Sword” Sung-won, Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, Shin “Rather” Hyeong-seop, and Coach Byun "Chaos" Young-sub regarding the allegations against cvMax. Below are some of the statements:

  1. Chaos says that cvMax said to a player “motherless play”, which in Korea, calling someone motherless or insulting their parents is considered one of the worst insults. He also shook a player by their collar.
  2. Sword says that he was told by cvMax, “you can’t make a person who only has one arm clap. Other players have two, but you only have one [arm]. I can’t treat a handicapped person the same as the others.”
  3. Tarzan notes that he was not the victim of any physical or verbal abuse but that he witnessed cvMax doing so to other players, including shouting expletives to a player and saying “you really <expletive> suck.”
  4. Rather says that during a scrim two years ago, the team’s support player died during a taunting play and during feedback was told by cvMax that “if I was a teammate in that game, I would have called you a <expletive> whose mom died.”

It is not a pleasant read, and a disheartening account of what these players experienced. The few that did speak are brave and even confessed to being a little worried, and understand why others have not spoken out.

While the investigation at this point has been concluded, it is really unsure as to what Griffin’s team will look like next year, and what we will be seeing from them in 2020. The story here has had a lot of twists and turns, with both sides claiming the other side should take the blame.

Hopefully, other teams from any region will see this entire situation and think clearly about how they work with their pros, and how their coaches interact with them as well. This is surely not something that can ever be repeated again.