EVO—the long-running video game tournament dedicated to fighting-game series like Street Fighter and Tekken—was rocked by departures on Thursday in the wake of startling allegations lodged against its co-founder.
Shortly afterward, the man in question, Joey Cuellar, apparently acknowledged these accusations of sexual assault against a minor in a brief, frank post on social media. This was swiftly followed by EVO firing Cuellar from the organization and canceling EVO 2020’s online tournaments outright.
After accusations came departures
Capcom announced its decision to withdraw all participation from EVO 2020 on Thursday evening, minutes after NetherRealm Studios, the developers of the Mortal Kombat and Injustice series, did the same. That means tentpole games Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat 11 will no longer be played; the latter game figured largely into EVO’s transition to an online-only event, owing to its reputation for superior netcode. Mane6, the developers behind new EVO participant Them’s Fightin’ Herds, followed suit shortly after.
[Update 9pm ET: Minutes after this article’s publication, Bandai Namco joined the growing chorus of departing game publishers.]
In explaining its decision, Capcom pointed directly to allegations against Cuellar, the tournament’s co-founder and president, while NetherRealm offered a more vague statement that was likely about the same allegations: “We stand in solidarity with those who have spoken out against abuse,” NetherRealm’s statement said.
This followed other participants announcing their EVO 2020 departures, including commentators James Chen, Maximilian Christiansen (Maximilian_Dood), and Stephen Lyon (Sajam) and frequent EVO player Dominique McLean (SonicFox). Many of these frequent EVO attendees said they were not participating due to the tournament’s choice to not remove Cuellar from the proceedings. As of press time, EVO’s official social media channels acknowledge the accusations of underage sexual assault made by Mikey Pham (Crackpr0n) Wednesday evening on the service TwitLonger, though the organization has chosen to merely put the tournament’s president on ““administrative leave pending a third-party investigation.“
“Evo is run by a team and not a single individual,” James Chen wrote on Twitter shortly after EVO’s announcement. “But a single individual can stain the entire event. Until Joey ‘MrWizard’ Cuellar is removed from Evo, I can no longer participate.”
Shortly after various game studios and participants distanced themselves from EVO 2020, Cuellar posted a brief statement on Twitter that appears to acknowledge Pham’s Wednesday accusations:
I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone. I was young and reckless and did things I’m not proud of. I have been growing and maturing over the past 20 years, but that doesn’t excuse anything. All I have been trying to do is become a better person. Once again, I’m truly sorry.
[Update 2, 9:25pm ET: Cuellar’s statement may have been the straw that broke the EVO’s back. The tournament’s official social media channel has since confirmed that Cuellar is out, telling fans: “Effective immediately, Joey Cuellar will no longer be involved with EVO in any capacity.” The organization has installed a new CEO, and it has gone so far as to outright cancel the entirety of EVO 2020. “We will work to issue refunds for all players who chose to purchase a badge,” the statement says.]
The accusations against Cuellar, and his acknowledgement of them, followed a wave of stories and allegations that came out over the past few days of sexual abuse within the world of fighting-game tournaments. At least one allegation led to a Smash Bros. pro player, Anti, claiming he was “innocent” of charges of sexual assault against a minor, only to admit he’d engaged in sexual acts with a minor. This confession was deleted hours after it went live.