Bae “Bang” Jun-sik received international attention last month because of comments he made to a fan during a stream months ago, which resulted in the League Champions Korea Operations Committee delivering a “caution” to the team. Although the consequence of the caution meant little for the team’s standings, it was supposed to be a symbolic gesture so the community knew that people in charge were paying attention.
The punishment didn’t seem to satisfy the community, though. It seemed as if nothing would satiate the community’s desire for ridicule, which seemed a bit extreme considering Bang’s comments were rather innocuous. For as much as it must hurt to be insulted by a pro player, Bang’s words — “Even if a hundred idiots put their pay together, it wouldn’t be comparable to mine,” — wouldn’t even register among the worst things said daily in the League of Legends community.
Still, looking for a reason for such visceral backlash takes us to Bang’s org, SK Telecom T1. This isn’t the first time SKT has endured some controversial statements from its AD Carry. The manner of handling it this time, however, was staunchly different, which might have contributed to the amount of criticism levied at Bang.
In early 2014, screen shots circulated of Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin engaging in incredibly abusive language — far worse than what Bang said — during a game of solo queue. Piglet was subsequently criticized for a “lack of professionalism.” Within a couple of hours, SKT head coach Choi “cCarter” Byung-hoon replied in a comment chain on one of the posts about PIglet, personally apologizing and promising an official response. He urged fans that the fault was on him for not being able to control his players, and asked them to direct any sort of criticism his way.
Two days after that comment, cCarter made a personal post, apologizing again and saying it was his personal responsibility to instill the proper professional mindset and maturity to his players. cCarter also promised the fans that “nothing like this will ever happen again,” and added Piglet’s own personal apology letter under his. The apology by Piglet was largely accepted by the community, and the incident was squashed.
Compared to Bang’s situation, where SKT never made an official statement, and the difference is clear. While one had a near-immediate acknowledgement from the coaching staff and subsequent apologies, the other had a Twitter apology by the player a couple of days after the incident and nothing else. SKT let the problem fester for almost a month as its reputation was at least slightly dimmed in the eyes of some fans.
SKT has — perhaps unintentionally — set the standard so high not only for how to address a particular issue, but for behavior in general. The deviation from that standard helped send the community over the edge. Despite the measurably worse comments from Piglet, the incident didn’t incite nearly as much backlash, and certainly no action was taken by the LCK Operations Committee. Perhaps handling Bang with the same severity as Piglet could have prevent much of the trouble that persisted over the last few weeks.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games