The latest in TSM’s terrible PR optics once again comes from president Leena Xu, who leaked that “no one wants to pick up Dardoch” by accident, while talking in the same room that Yiliang “Doubelift” Peng — Xu’s boyfriend and TSM’s new bot laner — was streaming.
The major slip up has already made headlines and raised concerns about TSM’s poor management, and it piles onto already existing conversation about the conflict of interest caused by the personal relationship between Xu and Doublelift, the latter being Xu’s employee.
On top of that, however, it triggers yet another web of conflicts between jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, his current employer in TSM, his current team-mates, one of which is now Doublelift, and the association which, in theory, should represent his interests now that such intimate information about the player has been leaked to the public due to admitted mistake by his employer — the NA LCS Players Association (NALCSPA).
What does the NALCSPA do?
In short, the NALCSPA was founded to best represent the interests of the LCS players when it comes to dealings with the league. This involves providing information and legal council when the need calls for it, like when a player thinks he’s getting unfair contract in terms of wage or terms of employment (including potentially career-ending non-compete clauses), or he’s been mistreated by his organization, for example.
In 2015, esports lawyer David Graham pointed out that such practices already exist.
“There are contracts that won’t be favored in states, some agreements basically force employment status to players and some are simply awful. There’s also issues where players are not old enough to form a contract on their own.”
Two years later, in June 2017, the NALCSPA launched with initial funding from Riot Games — which is yet another conflict of interest, but not the topic of this article — while promising to remain independent moving forward.
NALCSPA doubled down on being “independent” on their official webspage, stating:
“We are an organization run by and for NA LCS and Academy players to inform and enrich their professional experience as esports athletes. It’s our mission to provide vetted, unfiltered and independent resources for pro players to understand their rights, advocate for their own interests and have all the tools necessary to realize their goals and maximize their potential.”
All this is obviously necessary if an LCS player is to be represented before Riot Games, or any current, future, or past employers.
Why should NALCSPA care about Dardoch’s case?
Simply put, Xu’s unintentional leak that no one wants to sign Dardoch immediately brings down the players value and career prospects. This is a delicate piece of information that should’ve never been made public and by revealing that there is no interest towards him directly damages his livelihood as a professional player. It hurts Dardoch’s bargaining ability, which could result in a worse contract for him with potentially lower salary than what he might’ve wanted, and also hurts his position with potential teams that might’ve been interesting in signing him and which were not privy to the information Xu has now leaked.
While some might argue that Dardoch’s own reputation has infamously been less than stellar, it should by no means be used as a defense of Xu’s mistake and it cannot be argued that said mistake was not harmful to Dardoch’s career opportunities.
Since his status was leaked by his own employer through sheer incompetence, Dardoch can now seek legal council and representation on his way out of TSM, and the NALCSPA would be one of the agents he could potentially approach. After all, the NALCSPA was established to represent players in such delicate positions when you’re not sure what your play is.
The conflict of interest between Dardoch and NALCSPA
The leadership team of NALCSPA consists of six members total: an executive director, Hal Biagas; president, Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya; a treasurer, and three vice presidents.
Three of those six members are current teammates of Dardoch, including Vincent “Biofrost” Wang (secretary/treasurer), Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg (vice president), and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng (vice president).
This calls to question the ability of the NALCSPA to independently represent Dardoch should he consider approaching them, as there’s way too much conflict of interest intertwined there. As of October 2019, Bjergsen is a part-owner of TSM, so how can he navigate a potential player’s case against his own team and its president?
As for Doublelift, the information was leaked on his stream and by his girlfriend, so how can he advocate for the rights of a player against a president who is the employer of both, but also in relationship with an NALCSPA vice president?
The short answer is they simply can’t and Dardoch’s chances to get a fair representation from the very agency designed to help him are zero, reaffirming the impotence of the association.
Whether TSM will take action to fix this multi-layered conflict of interest is yet to be seen.