League of Legends already has a reputation for having a toxic community, but fortunately that tendency rarely manifests itself in its worst forms in its professional esports matches. Yet some pro players apparently can't help themselves. Take Hankil "Road" Yoon, the Support player for the Chinese team I May. On Friday, LoL developer Riot announced he'd received a one-game suspension and a fine of $2,000 for using "racially insensitive language" on the game's Korean servers on September 19.
It's currently not clear exactly what Yoon said to warrant the suspension, but Riot said it started looking closely at his accounts after hearing how he "verbally abused" one of his own teammates while playing a ranked game on the North American servers on October 5. It turns out that was just the tip of a mountain of problems. Riot discovered that he'd been reported in five out of the last 60 games he'd played on the North American servers and in 22 of the last 168 he'd played on the Korean servers. He'd even received a 10-game chat restriction for "verbal toxicity."
Riot also started looking more closely at Yoon's behavior after a Reddit user named enuR- posted screenshots last week of Yoon telling Echo Fox's mid-laner Henrik "Froggen" Hansen to "go die" repeatedly in chat during a solo queue match. The same day, Hansen himself said on Twitter:
Yoon responded to the Reddit post on Facebook, suggesting that it wasn't really as bad as it sounded—instead, with his poor "English communication skills," he was simply telling Hansen that he was dying too much every time he went to the middle of the map. (And it's true the screenshot points out that he'd died seven times in 20 minutes.)
A one-game suspension may not sound like much, but the timing could have dire consequences for I May as it prevents Yoon from participating in the team's match against the Flash Wolves today. That could, in turn, prevent I May from progressing to the quarter finals of the currently ongoing League of Legends World Championship.
It's yet another example of the struggles gaming faces as it slowly matures into a legitimate sport. Riot's actions fortunately represent something of a move toward the "behavior check" Hansen desires, but it seems strange that they just now thought his behavior warranted action after so many offenses. As Riot itself states in the announcement (and the list of rules Yoon broke), it expects a high standard from its players:
"Professional players are expected to maintain good behavior in and out of game, regardless of the actions of their teammates. Furthermore, racially insensitive language is never acceptable in any environment."
And it could have been much worse for Yoon. Consider the words of Christian "IWillDominate" Rivera, formerly the jungler for Team Liquid, prior to Yoon's suspension.