A Twitlonger from Chaos Esports Club AWPer Owen “smooya” Butterfield revealed that he will miss the remainder of Chaos’ Flashpoint matches in its debut spring season, as well as any additional tournament during that time.
In his explanation, smooya disclosed that he was in the United States on an ESTA visa waiver instead of the traditional P1 Athlete’s visa or a work visa sponsored by Chaos. As smooya returned to the UK earlier this week to restart the ESTA’s 90-day counter, the player found out that his visa appointment had been canceled after US president Donald Trump extended America’s travel ban to include the UK and Ireland.
smooya then seemed to contradict himself, saying that his P1 visa was already approved but his interview for the same P1 Visa had been canceled.
“Currently with all the COVID-19 stuff happening I’ve had to return to the UK since I have no more days left on my ESTA. I have already been approved for my P1 but the problem came when my interview got canceled since the embassy in the UK is closed. So can’t stay in America and have to wait for a new interview date,” Smooya said.
Those visiting the United States under an ESTA visa must return home after spending 90 days in the US, but can immediately return once they step off the plane and onto foreign soil. Since the AWPer was technically traveling on business, US Customs and Border Patrol wouldn’t have looked twice. That said, the AWPer has hinted that this was possible for weeks.
While it would have been a long two days, smooya technically had the time to leave the country and return to reset the 90-day counter. ESTA’s are good for two years from the date of issue or upon expiration of the traveler’s passport.
Additionally, by entering the USA under an ESTA waiver instead of a proper visa and while presumably being paid by Chaos, both smooya and the Chaos organization broke the laws surrounding the ESTA waiver.
“An ESTA cannot be used for obtaining income or employment from U.S. sources,” says the official ESTA.
Should CBP catch wind, it could cause more trouble for smooya in the future.
Chaos and smooya should’ve seen this coming. Trump announced he would extend the US travel ban to include the UK and Ireland combat the spread of COVID-19 on March. According to US Customs and Border Patrol, P1 visas take an average of 3-6 months of processing time. Smooya intimated in a tweet that the had signed the contract with Chaos in early January, and a legally binding contract to a US sports team or one competing inside the US is one of the P1 visa requirements.
“So until this whole situation is fixed I will be moved to the bench for @ChaosEC. They will find a replacement soon to help them finish the rest of @Flashpoint and any other events they have coming up,” smooya continued.
His announcement that he had been “benched” was also an odd choice of words, as was his pick of pronouns for the team. Calling Chaos “they” and “them” instead of “we” and “us” while using the word “replacement” instead of “stand-in” are things you hear from someone on his way out, not from a player simply caught on the wrong side of a surprise pandemic and the resulting travel confusion.
It’s very possible that smooya’s time in Chaos EC was over as quickly as it began. Adding fuel to the fire are two other facts: not one Chaos player has mentioned the situation on social media, and Chaos Esports announced that Logan “voltage” Long would take smooya’s place less than three hours after the issue appeared.
The similarities between smooya’s time with BIG and Chaos have fans wondering what’s really going on. After all, smooya seemed genuinely excited to join Chaos.
While we would normally chalk this up to a smaller Counter-Strike organization failing to understand the intricacies of international visas and a global pandemic, smooya has a history of benching himself when he doesn’t get what he wants.
This time, he clearly wanted to go home. His own tweets, alongside his contradictory statements, should concern fans in light of his tumultuous time spent with BIG.
This could be the next instance in a long line of choices that the headstrong AWPer has made throughout his career that has left both him and his talent sitting outside the server. smooya famously benched himself from BIG when the team assigned the AWP role to Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz. In an interview with HLTV, smooya was frank in addressing the move.
“Honestly, if I just say it exactly how it is, I’m just a huge child and I still haven’t sorted my emotions out,'” Smooya said at the time.
There was no official announcement regarding smooya’s travel to the UK until the AWPer tweeted out a picture of his suitcase at 3:49 a.m. on Thursday, March 20. In fact, Chaos had linked smooya in a post just 20 hours earlier regarding Chaos’ upcoming matchup against MIBR.