South Korean fighting game player Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee revealed last night that he has been banned from participating in several major community events, including this year’s Evolution Championship Series (Evo). While the news came as a shock, many of those familiar with the highly talented competitor’s controversial past believe it is still a long way off.
Evo and Combo Breaker (arguably the second most important basic tournament in the fighting game community) have contacted Lee via email informing him that he will not be allowed to participate in their events, according to screenshots Lee posted on Twitter† Both emails cited unspecified violations of each event’s code of conduct and offered refunds for Lee’s registration fees.
Speak with my box, Evo’s general manager, Rick Thiher, explained that the event is “committed to promoting a safe environment for our players and fans” and that the organizers require competitors and attendees to “work with Evo to create a supportive community that treat each other with respect and dignity.” This expectation, he continued, is shared by other events such as Combo Breaker, Community Effort Orlando, East Coast Throwdown and the Intercontinental Fight Club, all of which have also banned Lee.
“Evo will not publicly discuss individual enforcement decisions, but will take the necessary steps to uphold our code of conduct and create a welcoming environment at Evo competitions,” added Thiher. “These efforts are vital to the future of Evo and the experience we seek to create for our community.”
my box also contacted Lee, but heard nothing back for publication.
“I rightly believe it can be resolved with a good conversation,” Lee wrote in a Twitlonger post. “I hope the organizers will speak up and explain exactly the cause of the action that has denied me entry. Also from those organizers I demand a proper apology which has caused financial and mental stress in my planning of several overseas trips to attend these events and reverse their decision to refuse my entry.”
Lee’s statement also included a number of previous incidents where he was banned from participating in high-profile fighting game tournaments. What he did, unsurprisingly, is address the possible reasons for tournaments not wanting him to attend, of which there are many.
Though previously unknown, Lee quickly became a household name in the fighting game community thanks to his third-place finish in Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition on Evo 2010. Over the following years, he earned even more Evo medals and performed well in several fighting games, including: Street Fighter x Tekken† Street Fighter V† Samurai Shodownand Guilty Gear Endeavor† Lee’s tournament winnings were, of course, followed by sponsorship deals with companies like Mad Catz, Razer and Monster Energy.
But in 2018, Lee made headlines for a variety of reasons when he was accused of domestic violence against his now ex-wife. A follow-up investigation by his then sponsor, esports organization Panda Global, found these allegations credible and removed Lee from his roster. Lee also voluntarily stepped away from the Capcom official street fighter tournaments for a year, while disputing abuse claims for which he was arrested, found guilty by a South Korean court and fined.
Lee’s unabashed return to competition after a year of absence garnered a lot of backlash, especially when Evo himself congratulated him on his “triumphant return” after he won Samurai Shodown in 2019. At the time, Evo was still a grassroots operation, but the tournament was recently bought by Sony after the departure of co-founder and CEO Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar on allegations of sexual misconduct.
However, instead of keeping his nose clean, Lee kept creating trouble. For example, last year Lee was caught coordinating with friends to cheat on a novice Street Fighter V tournament he organized with the Korean streaming site AfreecaTV, his biggest sponsor at the time.
Screenshots from Discord show Lee encouraging the person who won that event, a master-level player in other fighting games, to Street Fighter V scoring too high for fear of arousing suspicion. After these details were leaked, Lee angrily addressed his accusers via Twitch, calling them “bastards” 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 takes up these bans, he spent his first stream on Twitch after learning the news arguing that it was good for him to use the n-word when you talk to black fighting game players. The racist comments, he later explained, earned him a seven-day suspension from the streaming platform, but Lee still doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. Instead, he chose to paint the whole thing as some kind of insidious conspiracy against an innocent man.
“I did a stream explaining what was happening to me because of Combo Breaker and Evo and then I got banned,” Lee told sympathetic viewers during a YouTube livestream early this morning. “Is it just a coincidence? It’s not hate speech. If you guys watch my last stream, it wasn’t hate speech. It wasn’t racism. But people who hate Infiltration just cut that moment and maybe send it to Twitch Global.”