South Korean fighting game player Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee announced last night that he has been banned from participating in several major community events, including this year’s Evolution Championship Series (Evo). Although the news came as a shock, many of those familiar with the highly skilled competitor were controversial past keep it coming for a long time.
Evo and Combo Breaker (arguably the second most important grassroots tournament in the fighting game community) emailed Lee to let him know he wasn’t allowed to attend their events, according to Screenshots posted by Lee on Twitter. Both emails cited unspecified violations of each event’s code of conduct and refunded Lee’s registration fees.
Speak with kotakuRick Thiher, Evo General Manager, stated that the event is “committed to promoting a safe environment for our players and fans” and that the organizers require attendees and attendees to “work with Evo to build a supportive community that… treat each other with respect and dignity.” That expectation, he continued, is shared by other events like Combo Breaker, Community Effort Orlando, East Coast Throwdown and Intercontinental Fight Club, all of which have also banned Lee.
“Evo will not publicly discuss individual enforcement decisions, but will take the necessary actions to uphold our code of conduct and create a welcoming environment at Evo competitions,” added Thiher. “These efforts are critical to the future of Evo and the experience we aim to create for our community.”
kotaku also contacted Lee but heard nothing prior to publication.
“I rightly believe it can be resolved with proper conversation,” Lee wrote a twitlonger message. “I hope that the organizers will speak up and explain exactly what is behind the lawsuit that has denied my entry. Also from these organizers I demand a proper apology which has caused financial and mental strain on my planning various trips abroad to get to these events and reverse their decision to refuse me entry.”
Lee’s statement also listed several previous incidents in which he was not allowed to compete in top-flight fighting game tournaments. What, unsurprisingly, he hasn’t done is address the possible reasons for tournaments not to play, of which there are many.
Although previously unknown, Lee quickly became a household name in the fighting game community thanks to his third place finish 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 Shotdownand Guilty Gear struts. Of course, Lee’s tournament wins were followed by sponsorship deals with companies like Mad Catz, Razer and Monster Energy.
But in 2018, Lee made headlines when he was, for a variety of reasons charged with domestic violence against his current ex-wife. A follow-up examination from his sponsor at the time, the esports org Panda Global, found these allegations credible and dropped Lee from his roster. Lee also voluntarily resigned from Capcom’s official street fighter Tournaments for a year while denying the abuse allegations, for which he was arrested, found guilty and fined by a South Korean court.
Lee’s uncompromising return to competition after a year’s absence drew considerable backlash, particularly when Evo himself added him to his “triumphant return‘ after he won Samurai Shotdown in 2019. Back then, Evo was still a grassroots operation, but the tournament was recently purchased from Sony following the departure of co-founder and CEO Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar for allegations of sexual abuse.
Rather than keep his nose clean, however, Lee continued to cause trouble. Last year, for example, was Lee supposedly cto coordinate something with friends to cheat a beginner Street Fighter V Tournament he organized with Korean streaming site AfreecaTV, his biggest sponsor at the time.
Discord screenshots show Lee encouraging the person who won this event, a champion player in other fighting games, not to raise his Street Fighter V Rank too high for fear of raising suspicion. After those details were leaked, Lee angrily turned to his accusers via Twitch, calling them “motherfuckers” and “garbage” who were only interested in taking him down.
Lee eventually apologized, but not before AfreecaTV dropped him as a sponsored streamer.
As for how Lee is handling these bans, he spent his first stream on Twitch after learning the news, arguing that he was fine with it Use the n-word when talking to Black Fighting Game players. the racist comments, he explained later, earned him a seven-day suspension from the streaming platform, but Lee still doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Instead, he chose to portray the whole thing as some kind of insidious conspiracy against an innocent man.
“I did a stream explaining what happened to me because of Combo Breaker and Evo and then I got banned,” Lee told sympathetic viewers during a YouTube live stream earlier today. “Is it just a coincidence? It’s not hate speech. If you look at my last stream, it wasn’t hate speech. It wasn’t racism. But people who hate infiltration just clip that moment and maybe broadcast it to Twitch Global.”