The Story of Phoenix1: One of Valorant’s Shadiest Organizations
3/2/2021, 7:33:40 PM
Valorant organization Phoenix1 came under fire a few weeks ago when accusations surfaced of them failing to pay their players. Today we were able to secure an interview with the team’s former assistant coach, Austin “Apex” Copeland, and player Aiden “King” King.
The story has it all: clueless managers, shady organization practices, and the aforementioned failure to pay players and organization staff.
“The director of esports was clueless to the matter,” Apex said. “I actually managed the entire thing and was able to coach and build connections at the same time.”
That director of esports was Dylan “Blame” Rich. He was supposed to be in charge of running the actual team and was also Apex’s main point of contact to the organization’s “owners”. The players initially never had direct contact with the owners and all their messages went through Blame and the team’s General Manager Ivy Becerra.
On January 4, Noah “agility” Drake left the roster. In his place came King. Unlike the other four players on the team, King never signed any official contract with Phoenix1, making him essentially a freelance player. The roster was once again complete and ready to compete.
The money trouble started once the team won Super League Arena on January 22. The 1st place win meant that the players were entitled to $5,000 which when split among the five of them came out to $1,000 apiece. The agreement between the players and the team was that the team received the money and the players would then be entitled to 100% of that tournament money.
The players received a message on January 30 from Eric Pierce, the Director of Event Operations for Super League. The message mentioned that Blame, the director of esports, raised some red flags to the tournament organizers and that they would need official confirmation from the players before sending him the money. Since the contract they agreed to mentioned that the org had the right to receive the money first, they had to agree in fear of facing legal consequences.
That money never came.
Two days after Super League Arena, on January 24, the team placed second at Pittsburgh Knights Monthly Gauntlet – January, which gave them $1,500 in total, or $300 apiece.
That money, of course, never came either.
Attempts to reach the organization’s higher-ups were met with either excuses or simply silence. At that point, the players got together and informed Blame of their intention to buy out their contract. The response from Blame was bitter and full of legal lingo, accusing the players of breaching their contract by attempting a buyout. When asked about the money they were owed, Blame told King that they should reach out to the organization’s CFO, Ryan Rameshwar.
Phoenix1 released a Twitlonger on January 29, making the players’ buyout public and claiming that they “were not given any chance to work with them on this decision”.
On February 14, King was the first to go public with the situation, mentioning the unpaid tournament winnings and the radio silence from the organization. He also told me that the other players buying out their contract “was apparently ‘not working with the org’ as well, and that’s the reason they did not receive their earnings as well.”
A follow-up revealed an interaction between King and the organization’s CFO Ryan Rameshwar in which Ryan mentioned that the owners have ceased operations for Phoenix1. He said the organization did not give him any money to pay the players with and blamed the organization’s decision on “the circumstances and pressure” that the players put on the organization. He also said any further questions should be directed to the team’s owner, a supposed Michael Griffin.
King once more attempted to reach out to Blame on February 2 who informed him that he no longer worked for Phoenix1 and that he should email the team’s owner as well. This would be one of the only times the players directly communicated with the owner.
The first email to owner Michael went out on February 3. Surprise, surprise, there was no reply.
A second email to Michael went out on February 9. This time, Michael replied.
He told King to not message him unless the concern was regarding a legal matter. Furthermore, he said that the other players have no relation to the situation at hand, even though they were also not paid the tournament winnings they were owed.
He accused King of quitting before his unofficial “month trial” was over and because he didn’t reach out to any of the staff to resolve his issues, the organization would not be “courteous” enough to pay him the money he rightfully won. That is, of course, not true since as we previously mentioned, many of the players’ messages to staff were met with silence. Michael ends his email by mentioning that he and the co-owner, a supposed Fredrick Richmond, cannot “dedicate any meaningful amount of time to the organization” even though they are the owners.
King replied and mentioned that even though he left before his uncontracted trial was over, he still won a total of $1,300 during the period he was with the team. Since he was never contracted, King believed that the money he won belonged to him and no one else.
In the reply, Michael once again reiterated that King left the team before the month trial was over and thus “did not fulfill [his] obligations”. While this is true, the fact that there was no official contract signed does not mean that the organization is entitled to King’s winnings. Michael also mentioned that he doesn’t know where “the idea that funds would be sent to an employee directly came from but that is not the case.” This is strange considering Super League’s message that they were speaking to Blame about the money.
Michael also said that Mr. Richardson’s, or Blame’s, contract expired at the end of January, and “if he made any promises about this situation there is no guarantee of the validity of anything he said.” Super League’s message about Blame came on January 30 and the players were not made aware that Blame left Phoenix1 until he told King about it on February 2.
King was not the only one to reach out to Michael. Colin “Precision” O’Neill emailed him with similar sentiments to his teammates: “you owe us our tournament winnings.” Michael was not happy with the players calling his organization a scam and claimed that the players “rightfully voided the contract before the org received any money” so the org is not legally obligated to pay them anything. He also mentioned that he is aware of the players’ tweets regarding the missing payments and continues to call them false claims, saying that “any legal action on your part will result in a countersuit for damages relating to every false claim that you have made.”
Marius Adomnica of law firm Segev LLP, on the other hand, disagreed with everything Michael said. In council with Apex and the others, he told them that they did nothing illegal. The contracts are not void, they are simply owned by the players now. The org still has an obligation to pay the player what they are owed since they won the tournament while the org still owned their contract. Everything in the contracts still holds up.
As for Phoenix1 as an organization, the last tweet from their official account said that “the org has paid all players according to their contracts” which is again, not true.
The players officially rebranded as ex-Phoenix 1 on January 31 and began looking for a better organization to represent. On February 22, they found that better org, and they were officially signed by Noble.
As for the Phoenix1 situation, they are still in a long legal battle that will hopefully end up with them finally receiving the tournament winnings they are owed. We here at RunItBack support organizations who pay their players and staff on time and wish the Ex-Phoenix1, now Noble, roster the best of luck in their battle. We thank Apex and King for their time and will continue to update you on any further developments to their situation. The full roster is as follows:
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