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EVO Online cancelled following abuse allegations against its former CEO

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In a year where staying home and flattening the curve has led to many a convention going online, EVO as perhaps best positioned to take advantage of this new status quo. The Wrestlemania of fighting game tournaments, this year’s EVO may have ditched its usual Las Vegas haunt for online lobbies but it still looked set to be a righteous celebration of fisticuffs. And then everything went to hell in a handbasket.

If you’ve been online lately, you’ve probably read horror stories from people about gross sexual misconduct across a wide section of entertainment. Everything from movie sets to pro wrestling has been plagued by people in power being just the worst, with plenty of allegations hitting the gaming scene as well as victims spoke up.

EVO Online saw accusations against its co-founder and now former CEO, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar, revelations so damaging that multiple game publishers and developers decided to withdraw their games from the event so that they wouldn’t be tarnished by the accusations currently being thrown at Cuellar. Mikey “Crackpr0n” Pham accused Cuellar of repeatedly preying on teenage boys in the early 2000s at the Southern Hills Golfland, which at the time was a hangout for fighting game fans to meet up and talk shop.

Following that news, fighting game heavyweights such as Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, Jachin “SKD” Harte, Dawn “Yohosie” Hosie, Steve “Lord Knight” Barthelemy and Stephen “Sajam” Lyon withdrew from the competition, while Cuellar was removed as CEO from EVO after he tweeted a public apology. “I’m sorry,” Cuellar wrote.

I never meant to hurt anyone. I was young and reckless and did things I’m not proud of. I have been growing and maturing over the past 20 years, but that doesn’t excuse anything. All I have been trying to do is become a better person. Once again, I’m truly sorry.

It wasn’t enough to save the event however, as Mane 6, Netherrealm Studios, Capcom and Bandai Namco all exited the tournament, essentially gutting it by pulling games such as Them’s Fightin’ Herds, Mortal Kombat 11, Street Fighter V, Tekken 7 and Dragon Ball FighterZ from the line-up. “In light of the recent accusations of misconduct made against Evo organizer Joey Cuellar, Capcom will no longer be participating in Evo 2020,” the developer wrote in response to the brouhaha.

Out of respect to those who have been affected and to the current investigation, we felt this was the appropriate course of action. We apologize to the players and fans who were looking forward to these tournaments.

Capcom’s statement echoes that of all the other publishers who decided to distance themselves as far away as possible from EVO this year, while the organisation itself has pledged to be better at rooting out problematic history within its ranks. “Over the past 24 hours, in response to serious allegations recently made public on Twitter, we have made the first of a series of important decisions regarding the future of our company,” EVO explained.

Effective immediately, Joey Cuellar will no longer be involved with Evo in any capacity. We are currently working towards his complete separation from the company and have relieved him of all his responsibilities. Going forward, Tony Cannon will act as CEO; in this position, he will take a leadership role in prioritizing greater accountability across Evo, both internally and at our events.

Progress doesn’t happen overnight, or without the bravery of those who speak up against misconduct and injustice. We are shocked and saddened by these events, but we are listening and committed to making every change that will be necessary in making Evo a better model for the stronger, safer culture we all seek. As a result, we will be canceling Evo Online and will work to issue refunds for all players who chose to purchase a badge. We will donate the equivalent of the proceeds as promised to Project HOPE.

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Last Updated: July 3, 2020

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