Update: since publishing this story, we've been contacted by DreamHack offering comment. Find it here.
Police were called to Dreamhack Winter this weekend over an altercation between CS:GO panel host Richard Lewis and Jonathan 'Loda' Berg, the captain of Dota 2 team Alliance.
In a tweet, Berg claimed to have been strangled by Lewis. In response, Lewis said that he had been provoked when the pro player "pushed his forehead into his face". I spoke to a spokesperson for the Jönköping police department this morning. They were not able to confirm the official details of the incident at this early stage but did recall an assault being reported on Saturday.
The argument between the two began with this tweet by Lewis:
Can someone tell the groupie I kicked out of bed this morning that she left her sign. pic.twitter.com/xbZnpVd2Vx November 28, 2015
Lewis claims to have found the sign discarded the night before and tweeted the photo as a joke at the expense of Team Liquid CS:GO player Hiko. The sign had, however, been made by Kelly Ong Xiao Wei, the manager (and self-described 'mom') of Alliance. "I was having a bit of fun between myself and Hiko and had no idea who created the sign" Lewis later told me via e-mail.
She challenged Lewis about the joke on Twitter, as did her partner, Berg. Berg then asked Lewis if they could meet up to talk about it. It was while meeting backstage at the event that the alleged assault took place and the police were called.
This incident has resulted in fallout on Twitter and in the CS:GO and Dota 2 communities, as might be expected. Berg has been quiet about the issue since Saturday, but Lewis has been more vocal, contending with those who have criticised him and stating yesterday that "the way dreamhack handled things and what they asked of me makes it difficult to want to do an event for them again moving forward".
I’ve reached out to all three parties involved, but at present only Lewis has responded to my request for comment. His account of the incident is quoted below.
"Backstage Loda's girlfriend had come over first and was berating me and I told her in blunt terms to go away and if her boyfriend approached me I'd tell him the same" he writes. "I then informed DreamHack about what was happening on Twitter and was talking about the veiled threats of 'I'll come and see you' or whatever."
"He walked over in the middle of that conversation shouting 'what joke did you make about my girlfriend' and came and stood as close to me as possible" Lewis continues. "No one intervened. He moved his head towards me until it was touching my face, so I grabbed him."
"It's not my proudest moment but I had a split second to make a decision. I don't know this individual or what he is capable of. Had I not felt threatened I wouldn't have acted to defend myself. As it happens after the whole silliness of it all we spoke and apologised to each other. That really should have been the end of it."
Of his experience with the police, Lewis writes: "in regards to the police, the player called them as is his right if he felt he was the victim. They interviewed me very briefly, agreed that based on other eye-witness accounts that it was reasonable I might have felt threatened and recorded it as a matter of self defence. They took my details and said it was unlikely any further action would be taken. As I said, it's all a bit silly and it's a shame something so nonsensical as this has overshadowed a great event."
Lewis expands on his account of the incident by writing that he has felt threatened at events before. "For a journalist and pundit like myself it's not uncommon to be threatened by players who dislike things that I say about their performance" he states. "This has happened to me on several occasions. It wouldn't be the first time someone attacked me at an event. I felt it could spill over into a physical confrontation so I acted on instinct. I regret it obviously but I think it's fair to say there were failings on all sides."
With this in mind—and lacking comment from Loda, whose account of the event could easily be different—I asked Lewis if he regretted that initial Twitter post. After all, calling somebody a 'groupie' that he'd 'kicked out of bed' was always going to hurt somebody, even if it didn't hurt a public figure in the Dota community.
"Friendly trash talking is part of the camaraderie in Counter-Strike" Lewis writes. "The difference between joking with people you know and strangers obviously changes context. I will never be overly concerned about causing offence when I express myself and we use humour a lot in what we do for entertainment purposes. Some jokes land, some don't, some upset people, some give everyone a laugh. Knowing where the line is isn't exactly cut and dry."
"Speaking of persona, I didn't come into this to end up living a double life. I remain true to myself in my work and social media presence. I'm a very 'what you see is what you get' kind of person and always speak my mind. Some people will like it and approve, obviously others don't. What I won't ever accept is that I have to bow down to an internet mob and change who I am, especially when the furore is based on half-truths and misinformation. The reaction has been massively over the top and it's amusing to me that so many, condemning me for alleged use of violence, would actually threaten me with violence without seeing the hypocrisy of that."
At present, no official action has been taken either by DreamHack or by the Swedish authorities. I've reached out to DreamHack for comment but not heard back from them at the time of writing. We'll update this story should they respond.
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