Valorant's First Strike EU was a tournament full of surprising upsets, heart-stopping moments, and amazing Valorant through and through with broadcast talent to match with the tournament sporting a slick and well-presented weekend of action that crowned Team Heretics as the best in the region.
As Riot's tactical FPS is set out be a game-changer in the esports industry, with First Strike being a resounding success even with the hardships of COVID-19, it seems that sadly, one thing will never change in esports and that's the consistent targeting and harassment of women, with host Yinsu Collins calling out players and personalities within Valorant to clean up their act.
The situation unfolded after a comment made by Collins during the first match of the main event, as Team Liquid faced off against Heretics. As Mitch "MitchMan" McBride criticized Liquid's performance, claiming that if the team bowed out of the tournament early "roster changes had to be made."
Yinsu then asked aloud, and in jest, if Mitch was suggesting that Liquid drop Dom "soulcas" Sulcas a player Mitch had focused on when talking about the team's performance.
Yinsu Collins shared the desk with Mitch "MitchMan" McBride and Jakub "Lothar" Szygulski (Picture: Riot)
"Are you saying that if they lose today, they have to kick Soulcas? Because that's what I'm hearing," remarked Yinsu.
It was a comment that ignited passions with some accusing Yinsu of unprofessional behaviour during the broadcast and some took it upon themselves to send personal attacks via social media.
"The most important thing for me to do is that admit I made a mistake, I'm not above making mistakes. When you're on broadcast eight hours a day, for four days, you are going to make mistakes," Yinsu stated in a video posted to her YouTube channel.
She then added that the "mistake here, at Soulcas' expense, was unacceptable," confirming that she reached out to the British player right after the match was over, as Yinsu's comments had painted a target on his back for Team Liquid fans to abuse.
The host proceeded to reveal Soulcas' reaction to her private apology: "He said to me that if I really meant my apology that I should do it publicly. I think he has a point."
- Read more: Sentinels' Dapr receives death threat for 'teabagging' during Valorant First Strike tournament
Collins, while lamenting the repercussions of her actions, explained the context of the joke, remarking that it doesn't excuse the poor taste of it.
"We wanted to tell the story of pressure," Yinsu said referring to the way casters and analysts were trying to push a strong narrative to help First Strike EU feel that more meaningful.
"If you don't play well, if you're an org paying your players £7,000/month or however much money it is, for six months to win trophies and you don't win trophies, then you have to do something as an org or as a team," Collins added.
First Strike was a resounding success (Picture: Riot)
"I wanted to make a joke in Mitch's expense, on-air talent we have that kind of relationship where we poke fun at each other, we push each other, we try and bait each other I guess," explained Collins, continuing: "I took that opening and I made a terrible joke. A joke that was damaging, irresponsible."
With a background as a former football reporter, mainly working covering the EFL Championship, England's second division, Yinsu stated that she's used to seeing analysts and pundits be more critical of players compared to esports.
"In the sporting world, I'm used to seeing players being criticized like very harshly. Saying they're not worth the money, not good enough, way harsher criticism that we see in esports really."
However Yinsu doesn't want this to sound like excuses, but rather serve as an explanation of the "vibe and environment" she was used to.
"It's my responsibility to read the room and to understand the industry," she added.
Yinsu wanted to strictly address those people that took advantage of her mistake to target her on a personal level with racial and sexist abuse, as well as death threats.
"For everyone else that used this opportunity to attack my gender, my race, my partner, I ask you to criticize me for the thing I did and to be harsh about it, but my ethnicity has very little to do with my mistake."
Yinsu Collins denies mocking Ardiis' matchfixing controversy
Ardiis was accused and subsequently cleared from match-fixing accusations (Picture: Riot)
Collins addressed a second clip floating around social media, where the host makes a follow-up comment to Jonas "AverageJonas" Navarsete's challenge issued to G2's Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks that seemed to directly mock a previous scandal endured by the Latvian star.
"Every time you get a kill with my shock dart lineup, you get five gifted subs," Jonas jokingly claimed during the broadcast, with Yinsu replying that Ardiis is the type of player to take Navarsete's challenge so seriously that "he might just throw and try and get as many shock dart kills as possible."
The video posted on social media has the comments made by Jonas completely cut out and ends right before Yinsu mentions the shock dart challenge, making it seem she's directly taking shots at Ardiis' match-fixing scandal, which was cleared up by Riot eventually.
Trying to get a player kicked mid official ✅— DP DOLLA (@DPSuwu) December 3, 2020
Joking about a falsely accused, cleared by riot, player matchfixing ✅
Professional ❌ pic.twitter.com/8Q7r0m2sQg
"I just think it's f**cking ridiculous that I have to defend myself. I didn't make a reference to the match-fixing, I wasn't joking about his accusations," a fed-up Collins stated.
For further context, she explained this was a bit rehearsed prior to going live on-air and was never intended to be directed at Ardiis personally.
"Jonas is known for his Sova lineups. In rehearsals, he made that gag, and I was like 'that's f**king hilarious.' In the game, he referenced Ardiis and I just made the joke."
Yinsu, who interviewed Ardiis soon after the match-fixing allegations were cleared by Riot, explained that Ardiis was the real victim of this ordeal, as the out-of-context clip could have hurt his mental state before playing the most important matches of his Valorant career.
"I was in tears, crying for probably 25 to 30 minutes. I wanted so desperately for Ardiis to be okay, to know that I didn't say what he think I said."
As Yinsu holds tears back, she mentions how comments made by peers and pro players in response to these instances have got to her, especially those that directly criticized her on a personal level.
"I can change my actions, learn from my mistakes. But when people say (stuff) about my ethnicity, my gender, my weight, my face, anything like that, I'm struggling. To hear pro players, people I respect say that about me, sucks, it really sucks."
One comment Yinsu pinpointed during her video was made by former CSGO pro player Ritchiedrama.
The retired UK pro tweeted that Yinsu "isn't qualified enough to clean the shit off my shoes, let alone do this job," after the Ardiis clip starter circulating around social media.
Woman isn't qualified enough to clean the shit off my shoes, let alone do this job. https://t.co/1HJ6DTMQJp— ritch (@ritchiedrama) December 3, 2020
Putting someone's work under scrutiny is completely valid, however, crossing that line and starting with personal abuse is something that should not be tolerated by anyone in the esports, or any industry at all.
We hope Yinsu brushes this off and can look back on Valoran't First Strike on as the personal and professional achievement it so clearly was.