Super Smash Bros. veteran Saleem “Salem” Young has been caught in the middle of pro Smash player Zach “CaptainZack” Lauth’s statutory rape claims against fellow pro Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada.
Since Salem wasn’t directly accused of sexual harassment or rape, the pro player’s organization, Most Valuable Gaming, hasn’t removed him from its roster. Instead, the organizaion stated that they would be finding Salem profesional help and giving him time to self-reflect.
This was a move that many in the Smash community seemed to respect. Still, some people in the Smash scene are conflicted about Salem’s involvement with the sensitive situation. When CaptainZack accused Nairo of having a sexual relationship with him while he was underage, CaptainZack shared some private messages outlining the events in a TwitLonger. The messages showed CaptainZack gushing to a friend about his interactions with Nairo. In turn, the anonymous friend seemed to encourage the young player to further pursue the relationship.
When the Smash community figured out the friend was Salem, some stated that he “condoned pedophilia” by telling the 15-year-old to go after 20-year-old Nairo.
I’m Tired of Living a Life of Lies
— CaptainZack (@CaptainZack_) July 2, 2020
“Dude was 22 years fucking old when the incident happened. A 22 yr old man cheering on a 15 yr old kid for sucking a 20 yr olds dick. Does anyone see how fucking disgusting that is? He is a huge part of what happened, he condones pedophilia, and this whole situation could of ended COMPLETELY DIFFERENTELY if he acted his fucking age,” a Smash community member wrote in a TwitLonger.
Salem decided to respond with a TwitLonger of his own.
This is my “statement.”
— 🏳️🌈 (MVG) Salem ☆ #BlackLivesMatter (@SalemBane_) July 6, 2020
“First off, I’d like to apologize for the message the screenshots might send anyone that reads them. I recognize what that looks like and how it makes everyone feel. I just want everyone to know that they do not tell the whole story,” Salem started.
He wrote that CaptainZack was a friend of his who he often saw struggling with romantic relationships. Salem then admitted that he thoguht Nairo was also “underaged” at the time of the incident.
“That is PRECISELY why I never questioned anything. Not only that, but Zack seemed genuinely happy, something I wasn’t used to seeing from him with relationships. In the screenshots, I was supporting him being happy in a way that he would understand. That is the truth. I was just trying to help a friend appreciate their own happiness in a rare moment,” Salem admitted.
Later, Salem realized he “made a mistake” as the allegations started to come out. He Googled Nairo’s age soon after and was allegedly surprised to see that he wasn’t also a teenager.
“Now that I knew Nairo was older, I got serious about everything. I began REALLY investigating. My mind immediately started to think there was a possibility that Zack was blackmailing Nairo or maybe Nairo was scared that people would find out that he was dating Zack. I didn’t know what to believe. I contacted friends of mine that I trust, and finally Zack on this,” Salem wrote.
Salem then stated that Nairo and Zack both lied about the situation, directly to him and publicly.
“So that’s it. It’s just all a big misunderstanding really. Sorry if these things came out to look like something else. If I knew things beforehand… believe me, I would’ve done something about it. I try to not butt into people’s business but I somehow get in the middle of things here. I’m really sorry,” Salem concluded.
Smash community still upset with Salem and Nairo
While many of Salem’s followers applauded him for coming forward and apologizing, others were skeptical about the situation. Some noted that Salem was aware that CaptainZack was only 15, making it strange that he was having such sexually charged conversations with the minor while he was 22-years-old himself.
You didn’t address the main problem. The problem was why you are having these conversations with zach in the first place where he is a minor. An adult should not be trying to hear the details of a minors sexual experiences and replying “I bet they were the cutest sounds”
— GodSlim (@GodSlimSSB) July 6, 2020
The professional Smash scene and its fans have been devastated with ongoing sexual assault and rape allegations against a number of well-known players in the fighting game community. It even contributed to the shutdown of EVO Online and the “cancellation” of Smash idols including former champion Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios. Many of the accusations in Smash revolved around minors, making it all the more upsetting for those in the fanbase who were unaware of these and other related behaviors.
There have been demands for punishment for not only Nairo, but also for CaptainZack. Some feel that he purposely seduced Nairo so he could later blackmail him, something that he was accused of in the past. But no matter what CaptainZack’s intentions were, others have made clear that Nairo wouldn’t have been in danger of any theoretical blackmail if he wasn’t having a sexual relationship with a minor. The addition of Salem’s involvement in the situation has only made it even more complex and concerning.