New details have emerged about the circumstances surrounding Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki’s departure from the Evil Geniuses LCS roster, details that seem to paint the organization’s conduct as incompetent at best and maliciously uncaring at worst.
Earlier this week, a report from Richard Lewis revealed details from sources close to Evil Geniuses’ LCS roster that shed light on the circumstances surrounding EG Danny leaving pro play. Lewis’ report said that Danny’s mental health had been flagging since MSI 2022 and that his sudden departure in the middle of LCS playoffs was a boiling-over point for the young star. Lewis’ report indicated that Danny, who is on the autistic spectrum, was offered less and less support as the splits went on despite Evil Geniuses’ promises that it would do so. A new report by independent journalist Arsh Goyal paints a full timeline of the events surrounding Danny’s departure from EG, a timeline that suggests incompetence of the highest order from EG.
Report lays out full EG Danny timeline
Goyal’s full report, published on Medium, takes information from a variety of sources involved with EG’s 2022 LCS roster to fully explore what happened to the team’s star ADC. According to the report, Danny’s mental health and stability inside a competitive environment were a concern for members of the team early on, especially Eonyoung “Impact” Jeong, the top laner for EG LCS. At MSI that year, Danny was reportedly sent to Korea without any members of EG’s performance staff present to help him adjust to the change. Danny’s mental health began to flag at this point, only getting worse leading into Summer Split and its playoffs.
Goyal differs from Lewis’ report in some ways, saying that EG staff only heard of Danny’s desire to quit in Summer Split playoffs. Chief coach Earl “Rigby” Han wanted to accept Danny’s resignation and make role swaps to adjust, but this was reportedly met with resistance by EG’S CEO, General Manager Andrew Barton, and Director of Performance Lindsey “Gamerdoc” Migliore. Supporting Rigby’s acceptance of Danny’s desire to quit were reportedly performance staff members Connor “Artemis” Doyle and Dr. Jordan “Dr. Respawn” Tsai. Both Lewis and Goyal report that the rejection of Danny’s immediate withdrawal was prompted by concerns over the team’s valuation and Danny’s “value to their brand.”
All of Goyal’s sources say that after losing to TSM in playoffs, Danny was in no state to continue competing, and yet Danny was put on stage against Team Liquid. This decision is credited in the report to being made primarily by executive positions, despite Goyal saying that “Every single coach, player, and member of support staff — to the knowledge of my sources — was extremely concerned for Danny’s health, and insisted that he receive the break he’d clearly needed for months.”
From there, Goyal reports that EG staff member Peter Dun was approached by executive staff to try and convince Danny to see playoffs through in the hopes that his friendship with the young player could be used for the organization’s benefit. Dun reportedly refused point-blank to use his friendship with Danny to make the ADC act against his own wishes. This request played a large part in his departure from EG in the 2023 off-season. Goyal also reports that when Danny was finally allowed to leave and return home, he was severely underweight and had several medically related issues to the malnutrition reported by Lewis. It’s reported that Danny’s family doctor saw these as so severe that they recommended hospitalization. There are more details included in the report that paint Evil Geniuses as an even more dysfunctional and potentially hostile environment, especially for vulnerable talent like Danny.
Goyal quotes members of the 2022 EG staff as saying “it’s f—— annoying that Danny is ruining everything” and “Danny is f——- r——-, what the f— was I supposed to do?” These remarks were reportedly made in a professional context, with other members of staff present.
While Danny did take to Twitter and try to assuage fans’ worries earlier this week, Goyal says that Danny had already made plans to continue with Evil Geniuses as a content creator and streamer for at least a month. Goyal also says that Danny did not author the statement, instead being prompted to post the message by EG in an attempt to mitigate damage to the org’s public image.
EG Danny controversy proves esports pros deserve better
With both reports corroborating very similar events, it seems that Danny’s departure is merely a symptom of a continually toxic corporate culture in esports. Danny was a young and talented player struggling with the rigors of esports superstardom and the pressure of public exposure. Evil Geniuses has painted itself as caring about North America’s developing talent, but C-level executives reportedly showed more concern for their brand’s monetary value than Danny’s health.
If the events in both reports are true, Evil Geniuses’ failure to support and protect its star talent is the result of a colossally irresponsible set of conscious decisions made to prioritize the organization’s pockets and image over the health of a young man in their care. This reported mistreatment and neglect were so severe that a medical professional recommended hospitalization for the young star upon his return home. Esports organizations have a responsibility to see to the mental and physical health of their players, but EG appears to have put its own financial interests above the health of a player it had said it would support. If a multi-million dollar company selling itself as the vanguard of North American talent cannot sufficiently protect and support its players, it is the fault of the organization and nobody else.
At the same time, it shows just how little labor protection esports players in the LCS have and how little their mental health can be prioritized. An organization can fail to support its players to the point of malnourishment while trying to convince that same player that he should play on stage against his expressed wishes to step away. While a Player’s Association exists, the reality of the LCS PA is that it has made very little tangible change to the landscape of the LCS in order to protect the players it is meant to represent.
Danny deserved far better than he was given during his time in the LCS, and he’s likely not alone in that.