Former NBA pro Rick Fox is reportedly leaving esports organization Echo Fox, which he founded in late 2015 after acquiring and rebranding the League of Legends team Gravity Gaming. According to Dexerto, Fox is splitting with the outfit over the use of a racist slur, directed at former Echo Fox CEO Jace Hall by a member of Vision Esports, which is part of an investment group that holds a stake in Echo Fox.
Fox reportedly made his intentions known in an email sent to shareholders last week, in which he said he would depart as soon as he can "facilitate a transaction to do so"—basically, as soon as he's able to find someone to buy him out.
"The recent outrageous and abhorrent display of pure racism made by a significant Echo Fox shareholder as well as threats to my family have made it impossible for me to continue to remain associated with the company," Fox wrote. "I will not support or be associated with such behaviour and attitudes displayed at the shareholder level. Racism is an anathema to what my personal brand strives for and tolerating any form of discrimination such as this is not acceptable."
The report says Fox's decision was triggered by a shareholder's use of the n-word to describe Hall in an email. A source told the site it's not the first time this has happened, and that Fox was motivated to make the split after other shareholders opted to ignore the racist abuse. "He obviously isn’t going to stand for that and was hoping the matter would be addressed on a shareholder level rather than just swept under the carpet," a source told the site.
Several hours after the initial Dexerto report, Echo Fox posted a statement on Twitter confirming that multiple instances of racist abuse had been directed toward unnamed individuals, and toward Fox himself. The statement did not confirm whether Fox has, or will, split from the organization, however.
"There have been incidents in recent weeks in which a limited partner of the Echo Fox organization, who is not an employee, officer, or director of Echo Fox, used a racial epithet towards individuals both verbally and via email. One such incident was detailed in media accounts today. And although that incident was not directed towards an employee, officer, member, or shareholder of Echo Fox, racial intolerance connected to Echo Fox is entirely unacceptable. There have been other reported incidents where the shareholder in question used this same vile language towards Rick Fox personally," the statement says.
"These incidents are especially significant for us as Echo Fox boasts an unparalleled level of diversity in its principal ownership group, management, leadership, and player base. Upon being made aware of the incidents, the Company has made various demands to the offending investor, including the investor's disassociation from the company and we continue to work diligently towards this end."
Echo Fox currently maintains LCS and Academy League rosters, and also has a strong presence in fighting games including Dragonball Fighter Z, Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat 11, and Injustice 2. It's also the home of Dominique McLean, better known to the community as SonicFox, the most dominant fighting game competitor on the scene today, who shared his thoughts on Fox's reported departure on Twitter.
"I respect my boss so much if this is the case," SonicFox wrote. "He has been a big inspiration to me and if he chooses to leave, I hope he stays in Esports as his passion and support for it is limitless."
I've reached out to Rick Fox, Echo Fox, and SonicFox for more information, and will update if I receive a reply.
Update: Riot Games has launched its own investigation into the allegations (although it did not name Echo Fox specifically), and said that it will respond "based on available actions within our team agreements and the LCS Rules." Echo Fox maintains an LCS team as well as an Academy team.
We have launched an investigation into the allegations and will respond accordingly, based on available actions within our team agreements and the LCS Rules. -Chris Greeley, LCS Commissioner (2/2)April 26, 2019