Nearly two years ago, “XJ9” was banned from League and Twitch after hacking his girlfriend’s account and losing games on purpose. But that wasn’t the worst of it. A few weeks later, he would post nude pictures of her on Facebook in retaliation for what was apparently a heinous offense: playing his most hated champion, Lee Sin.
Now, “XJ9” is stepping in as the jungle coach for Supa Hot Crew. There's little doubt he has a knack for understanding the jungle in League, pioneering the farm heavy style that William “Meteos” Hartman used to dominate the LCS last year. But should a professional team be hiring a person who publicly posted graphic pictures of another without their consent, less than two years ago?
There's already a precedent for professional teams enlisting banned players. SK Gaming coach Nicolaj "Incarnati0n" Jensen has a lifetime ban from League for "DDOS activity, abusive behavior and poor sportsmanship." But that hasn't stopped him from being an invaluable resource to the team, and especially young mid laner Jesse "Jes1z" Le. And it's worth noting that any of Jensen's alleged "poor sportsmanship" would surely pale in comparison to what XJ9 did.
The Supa Hot Crew already has a history with coaches of checkered pasts. Coach Nick “Lastshadow” de Cesare participated in map rigging—editing maps to give him an advantage—in StarCraft. But that was nearly eight years ago, and since de Cesare has worked to rebuild his reputation in the community at large. He believes the same thing can happen with "XJ9".
“Basically XJ9 did do everything he did about a year and a half ago, when he was 16 years old,” said de Cesare, in a video responding to the criticism. “He is now 18. That’s not a huge amount of time, but normally, in America, you’re given a clean slate at 18, barring you didn’t do something really catastrophic.”
The definition of “catastrophic” may be quite different for de Cesare than many people. Revenge porn is illegal in eleven states.
“We’re not acquitting xj9 of anything he did in the past,” says de Cesare.
“What he did was severely immature. What he did was bad. There’s no denying that. Speaking with him, he acknowledges that. He was stupid and the choices that he made were idiotic. We can’t excuse the things he did.”
But de Cesare believes the new coach is a “positive force” for the team, and in the ultra-competitive esports world that’s ultimately what matters. NFL players who kill while drunk driving or knock their fiancee’s unconscious may not be forgiven, but their crimes are forgotten as long as they show results on the field.
“There’s been no issue with him thus far, and I don’t see an issue arising. Can he be immature? Of course, he’s still young,” says de Cesare. “He has a right to mess up and make mistakes. That’s what’s supposed to happen before you’re an adult and enter the real world.”
Image via Riot Games