In the West, the 2021 preseason shuffle has gone under the sign of historic transfers like the retirement of Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, or Luka “Perkz” Perkovic’s departure G2 Esports for Cloud9 and Martin “Rekkles” Larsson jumping from Fnatic to take his place. But in South Korea’s LCK, one org has managed to infuriate and alienate fans on both sides of the Pacific — and it so happens to be League of Legends’, perhaps even esports’, most successful organization.
For the past few weeks, legacy org T1 has been barraged by community outrage and pitch-black optics following leaks that it’s looking to sign Nick “LS” De Cesare as a coach for the 2021 season.
The deal, first reported by Inven Global and later confirmed by a leak on T1’s own Lee “Effort” Sang-ho’s stream, has drawn quite the reaction. One fan hired an LED truck to drive around Jangro and Gangnam, where T1’s headquarters and training facilities are located, demanding “a clear and detailed explanation” and stating there’s “no future for a team that shuts out devoted fans”. Others took matters to further extremes, resulting in the harassment and obscene treatment of LS (or journalists writing about the story), to the point LS had to deactivate his social media presence and take cover.
The story has also split the Korean and western communities and fans and bystanders have been pointing fingers at each other, the pot calling the kettle black. And while the fanaticism of abusive fans is certainly an inexcusable, reprehensive behavior, T1’s management is most to blame as the originator of this controversy.
Leading in with LS was T1’s first and (perhaps) biggest mistake
Before this statement is misinterpreted and taken out of context, I’ll make it clear: this has nothing to do with LS’ abilities as a coach and a professional. This is not an argument that LS is not good enough for T1 (and, as we’d come to see, it is in fact T1 that isn’t good enough for LS). The issue lies with the duality of LS’ image between the West and Korea — two demographics that T1 wants to appeal to at the same time, given their split ownership between Comcast (US) and SK Telecom (KR).
On one hand, the West sees LS as an eloquent broadcast talent, a gifted analyst, and a revolutionist in terms of strategy, especially when it comes to wave management and itemization. “He’s changed how people look at itemization in pretty much every single western league. He got people to start thinking about their builds way more often,” Fnatic top laner Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau told Inven Global a few weeks ago.
“He’d be one of the best suited western personalities to join a Korean team. He’s lived in Korea, he loves being there,” Bwipo added.
“Even though they must have anticipated the backlash, T1 had no…
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