Smash Bros. tournament organizer steps down amid whirlwind of harassment allegations

The competitive Super Smash Bros

The competitive Super Smash Bros. community is reeling after one of its most prolific tournament organizers resigned amid a flurry of troubling allegations of harassment.

Jonathan “Alex Strife” Lugo, organizer of the popular Smash tournament Apex, stepped down this morning after multiple people came forward with allegations regarding his behavior toward transgender women and underage girls. 

Lugo allegedly outed multiple transgender women, such as Haley “Nyani” Jones, and used her birth name in conversation, a serious breach of trust and privacy in the trans community. “Up until this incident, almost nobody within this game knew I was transgender,” Jones told the Daily Dot. “I always sort of had the fear that the community might prove to be made up of your generic intolerant gamer bros.”

Kay Mitchell, another transgender woman, claims that the tournament organizer “harassed me and several other women.” Her run-in with Lugo allegedly began “on a Skype call.” 

“My company was sponsoring apex and printing the 2014 trophies, where he talked abt my breasts and his attraction to trans women. [This] continued at [the] tourney itself and months afterwards of unresponded-to FB messages and Skype messages before I blocked him.”

In 2010, Lugo also allegedly made inappropriate sexual advances toward Emily “Kiwi” Wajda, who was 14 at the time. 

Wajda wrote a blog post about the behavior in November 2010, imploring Lugo to “stop with this creepy pedophile talk you keep giving me.” 

She continued: “I don’t want to know and never DID want to know some things you have told me.”

Wajda elaborated on the events in a Facebook post created earlier today.

“You don’t ask a 14 year-old girl what her bra size is, and tell her you want to do gross pedo things to her and get away with it,” she wrote, appending a screengrab of what appears to be an incriminating message on AOL Instant Messenger. In the conversation, an account linked to Lugo says, “You’re the only girl I’d go pedo for… no tell people plox[sic].” 

According to Wajda, Lugo’s harassment stopped after the original blog post, but she goes on to allege that she knows of other girls of a similar age who experienced similar advances from the Apex organizer.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable behavior for a community leader to sexually harass tournament attendees, especially underage girls,” Mitchell told the Daily Dot, prior to Lugo’s resignation. “I expect that Jonathan Lugo will step down or be removed from the leadership of this tournament. If not, I think Nintendo and other sponsors need to reevaluate their relationship with an event that isn’t a safe space for women.”

For the subjects of these allegations, however, the community response has been heartening. Within hours, several prominent figures within the Smash community called for Lugo’s resignation. 

“We have worked so hard in recent memory to cultivate a scene where a wide array of people can make an impact,” former Smash commentator Wynton “Prog” Smith said in a statement. “We need to continue giving the message of openness and we, as a community, need to continue making our events safe spaces.”

Jones and Mitchell are particularly encouraged by the community’s response. “Smash community leaders are stepping up in a really positive way,” Mitchell said. 

“I’ve definitely been shown today that [Lugo] is one of a very small minority of people who behave this way, at least specifically towards trans women,” Jones added. “I suppose I can say it’s been empowering to be heard, and taken seriously, and supported by a community that I very much love.”

Lugo did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

Illustration by Jason Reed