On November 2, T1 support Lee “Effort” Sang-ho allegedly leaked by accident the signing of Nick “LS” De Cesare as the team’s new head coach. What started as an innocent mistake has turned into a gruesome case of harassment by hordes of T1 fans. For most western fans, this is coming out of nowhere, but LS and the Korean fans have some difficult history.
It all started in 2019 when LS signed with bbq Olivers as a coach. At this point, bbq had been relegated from the LCK and was in the process of fighting its way out of Challengers Korea. In an unexpected move, the organization signed Swedish player Sebastian “Malice” Edholm. Malice became the first non-Korean player to ever play with a Korean organization at the professional level.
Malice’s debut was scheduled with the start of the spring season, but it was delayed for 19 days. Riot Korea and bbq Olivers suspended Malice due to his toxic behavior in solo queue. The player outwardly repented, but still continued to show problematic behavior in-game.
High elo in Korea is extremely different from solo queue in North America or Europe. In this region, players take great pride in reaching rank one and take every game seriously. Solo queue has a pool of young emerging talent, and it’s not uncommon for organizations to pick up players directly out of solo queue. DRX jungler Hong “Pyosik” Chang-hyeon got scouted from solo queue and debuted in the LCK without any kind of previous professional experience.
Most western organizations bootcamp in Korea because of the high value of the solo queue practice there. Because of that, having a player openly trolling these games is behavior that pro players and fans alike won’t allow for.
Malice harassed his teammates and opponents all the same, went for odd plays, and overall made many games unplayable. Pro players reported him on stream several times, and LS had a strong reaction to those reports.
“The double standard hypocrisy by the Korean forums/pro players towards Malice the past 1.5 months is outrageous. You want to talk about borderline racist behavior/xenophobia, look no further than some comments players like Ruler make about him,” LS wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
The tweet came after Gen.G’s ADC Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk reported Malice with the comment, “This guy is not normal. He’s almost not human, really.”
LS’ defense of Malice seemed to be rooted in the fact that he was far from the only player in Korean solo queue play to troll or throw games. But this still didn’t excuse Malice’s behavior, particularly as it was repeated.
In another instance, Malice played against pro Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and wrote in chat, “Bang, do you hate yourself? Why would you duo with such a worthless mid laner?” The mid laner in question was the SK Telecom T1 substitute mid laner Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik.
While Malice continued to make questionable decisions in-game, LS defended his player.
The final straw for LCK fans was the attack from LS against top laner Park “Untara” Ui-jin, a well-liked player in Korea, who released a video that included some of Malice’s troll moments.
“Did you find it fun exaggerating a player’s attitude to get views on YouTube? Did you decide to take a break for Spring in order to [do] this kind of stuff? If it was another Korean player you wouldn’t have made this video, you must have enjoyed tormenting him as a foreigner,” LS wrote.
Untara reacted to the attack on stream, saying that if Malice apologized privately, he would’ve taken down the video. He clarified that Malice abusing the pings and being overall problematic wasn’t an uncommon of thing, which is why he drew such attention to it. According to Untara, if it was a Korean player, none of it would’ve had happened in the first place because players would’ve discussed it with their coaches and solved the issue privately.
Fans jumped to defend Untara from the attacks. The reasoning for fans was that LS held a position of power as a coach for bbq Olivers. For those fans, accusing players of being racist on social media was seen as improper behavior.
With all of that history carried behind him, LS is allegedly getting signed as T1’s head coach, the biggest team in the Korean region and arguably in the world.
T1 fans are calling LS a troublemaker and problematic. Those assessments might have been accurate in 2019, but they may not be this year. People evolve and change, and if T1 is willing to get LS on board, the organization must have a good reason for it.
It’s impossible to predict if T1 will go through with its signing of LS or how the move might work out for the squad. Fans will have to wait a little longer until the start of the free agency to know what will happen with T1 and whether or not LS is part of the team.