It has been an unusual summer split for T1. While the 3-time world champions have now secured playoffs, their mid-season was somewhat shaky. So shaky, that the League of Legends GOAT and T1 icon, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, was benched in favour of rookie talent Lee “Clozer” Ju-hyeon, allegedly in order to clean up shot-calling.
The news wasn’t taken universally well by fans. Faker’s benching opened up T1’s LoL roster and backroom staff to criticism - criticism that has now extended to death threats. In response T1’s CEO, Joe Marsh, has stepped in to quash the upsurge of online harassment, warning that T1 are exploring legal action if the threats continue.
“We value our community’s fandom and acknowledge that criticism comes with the territory of professional gaming,” Marsh announced via a statement on T1’s Twitter account, “however, recent incidences [sic] have threatened our team’s health and safety - overstepping the lines of fandom with violent threats and hate speech.”
One such example of this was revealed in a recent interview with Inven Global, where T1’s Coach Kim admitted he had been receiving threats online, saying, “Sometimes, there are messages, where there’s a ghastly picture of a ghost, with red captions that say something like “You f*cking die”.”
For fans of Faker, it is worth noting that Coach Kim also noted Faker had shown “new motivations” and was definitely performing at the same level of Clozer in practice. Nor is it the first time Faker has had to fight for a starting position on T1 - look back to Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon in Season 5, or Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik in Season 8 when they were competing with Faker for the coveted starting spot.
Regardless of whether Faker does reclaim his starting spot, vitriol and hate from fans aimed at players and management will do nothing to bring the star midlaner back. One can only hope that T1’s frank public statement will quell the harassment the team has been facing.