Riot fines Griffin, permanently bans former director and head coach following Kanavi controversy

This unprecedented controversy will cause significant changes to the LCK rules in 2020.

Photo via Riot Games

Riot Games has banned Griffin director Cho Gyu-Nam and head coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-Ho permanently from all business activities related to the game developer. Riot also fined Griffin $85,000 in the aftermath of its investigation into Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok’s contract.

The case is also now under formal criminal investigation in South Korea, according to Riot’s statement.

Last month, Griffin competed at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship without their head coach, cvMax, who was removed from the team right before the tournament. Internal tensions didn’t seem to ease when the dismissal of director Cho Gyu-Nam was announced two weeks after.

Seo Kyung-jong, the CEO of Griffin’s parent company, Still8, announced that an investigation would be conducted with Riot once Worlds ended. On Oct. 29, Riot released updated elements of the investigation, conducted both by the publisher and the Korean Esports Association (KeSPA), that mainly involved the contract proposal that Griffin player Kanavi received from the China-based team JD Gaming.

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In this statement, Riot determined that the transfer contract violated the rules because Kanavi was still a minor and signed it without the consent of a legal representative. Riot also said that the rules would be changed before the upcoming season so this situation wouldn’t happen again.

In today’s ruling, Riot said that director Cho Gyu-Nam unfairly used his position of power against Kanavi. The report claims he unfairly pressured the player into accepting JD Gaming’s proposal and bypassed his legal representative. Instead, Griffin’s law firm, VEAT, signed the contract and proclaimed itself as his legal representative. As a result, Riot has permanently banned him from business activities related to Riot and Cho Gyu-Nam is now facing a judicial investigation.

CvMax is also under judicial investigation. The former head coach reportedly verbally abused some players, according to Riot. He’s also been permanently banned from any business activity involving Riot.

The 100 million won (roughly $85,000) fine was levied because the team didn’t take proper measures against its former director and head coach, according to Riot.

“The Executive Committee’s primary goal is to build a fair and sustainable esports ecosystem that fans will appreciate for generations,” Riot said. “In the meantime, the Executive Committee is also responsible for the occurrence of unpleasant incidents like this one. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the fans who support LCK and esports.”

Riot plans to adjust its rules for the LCK in 2020 to strengthen the protection of minors. All LCK teams will be inspected, including all of the players’ contracts, so Riot can ensure that the organizations respect these rules. Poaching and lease regulations will also be reworked to create a clearer legal framework and a healthier environment in the LCK.

As for the judicial investigation, some elements were revealed by Ha Tae-Kyung, a member of South Korea’s National Assembly, earlier today. They indicate that Griffin’s law firm, VEAT, forged an agency seal to pretend that the transfer contract was made that respected international laws and to trick Kanavi and his parents into signing it. Former director Cho Gyu-Nam also allegedly threatened Kanavi’s life to get his signature, according to the report.

In addition, while the leasing contract in May was signed by Kanavi’s legal representative, the transfer contract wasn’t. VEAT appointed itself as Kanavi’s legal representative, which was illegal since he was still a minor when the contract was signed.

Although this investigation is over on Riot’s end, further legal statements will likely come, and the LCK’s rules are expected to change heading into the 2020 season.