At the 2016 World Championship, Russian support Kirill "Likkrit" Malofeyev captured the hearts of Western fans with his aggressive playstyle and passionate speeches. Now, a little more than a year later, he received a 6-month suspension from professional League of Legends and subsequently retired from the scene.
We examine the crime that earned him his punishment, and whether there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Analyzing the ruling
If Riot Games were to claim that Likkrit was banned for toxicity, no one would bat an eye. The Russian support made no secret of his volatile in-game behavior, and these negative tendencies already led to a 3-game suspension in the past. However, Likkrit claims that he has since passed more behavior checks than any other CIS player and never received as much as a warning.
So if it wasn’t toxicity, what got him banned?
Well, it was a broadcast on his stream where Likkrit spoke out against his old team—Albus Nox Luna—scamming its players and shared his concerns about the future of the CIS region. According to him, LCL was in dire straits. And that was all it took for the league’s organizers to deem his words as “statements… that are intended to harm Riot Games”.
Later, on the League of Legends subreddit, Riot Buckbeak commented on this ruling:
Critic [sic] words are appreciated. What we don't tolerate is toxicity, especially when it is systematic. The first time a pro-player wishes death to another, he gets a warning and a short ban. When he states "RU region should just die," he gets a longer ban.
But the community refused to buy into this line of thinking, and for good reason. After all, claiming that a game or a scene is “dead” is not the same as wishing death upon its player base, and the statement from Riot Buckbeak seems like an attempt to save face by blaming the victim.
Behind the curtains
Still, Likkrit admits that he broke the rules. He was prepared to receive a warning or a fine for his actions, but the six-month suspension came out of the blue.
After his ban, many people spoke out against Riot Games’ policies in the CIS region, but according to Likkrit, he never intended to declare war on the publisher. His sole motivation was shedding light on the poor state of his league and shady practices of LCL organizations.
And so, he got banned.
But even though this decision corresponds with Riot Games’ rule-set, there’s also the notion that punishment should fit the crime. Obviously, no one likes whistleblowers. But sometimes they’re necessary to change things for the better. And if everyone remains silent, one of the most promising League of Legends regions, the region that gave birth to Moscow Five, Gambit Gaming, and Albus Nox Luna, could fade into obscurity as a result.
Instead of listening to a pro player concerned about the future of his region, Riot continue their long-standing tradition of questionable competitive rulings by silencing him with a 6sixmonth suspension.
And considering that no one, not even the most popular player in the LCL, can challenge their authority, it will take a lot of courage for the next person to speak up.
Trial by combat
Things aren’t likely to end here.
Likkrit already said that he’d stay in the scene if his ruling was revised, but we wouldn’t’ count on Riot Games going back on their decision. And while the Russian support isn’t trying to rally his fans to boycott the publisher, he seems determined to keep speaking his mind. Within the last few days, his VKontakte page received several updates on the state of the CIS region and Likkrit’s own plans. In both cases, the future is uncertain.