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Last week Capcom banned one professional player over accusations of sexual harassment. Now the company’s response to two other physical threats from Street Fighter 5 players has stirred up more controversy. Capcom opted not to ban said players, Chris Tatarian and Brentt Franks, leaving some in the community dissatisfied.
The issue started when screenshots from a group chat with both Tatarian and Franks were publicly leaked. Here, both players, alongside a few others, made disparaging comments about the banning of esports photographer Chris Bahn. Similar to Leah “Gllty” Hayes, the player Capcom banned last week, Bahn had been banned from a number of fighting game community events over reports of him initiating unwanted physical contact with other attendees. In the group chat, Tatarian and Franks made an implied physical threat towards Mikey Pham, one of the other players in the group chat, stating that Pham “knew what would happen” should he show up at the Wednesday Night Fights weekly tournament.
In response to this, Capcom issued a statement on Twitter where they reiterated that threats of violence “violate the Street Fighter Code of Conduct,” (a code by which all players who participating in Capcom Pro Tour events must abide by), and that they would not be tolerated. However, in the same statement, Capcom also stated that it could not ascertain whether or not Tatarian and Franks actually intended physical violence by their comments.
— Capcom Fighters (@CapcomFighters) August 22, 2019
Many in the community have taken this as a reluctance on Capcom’s part to take action against the two players. Both players have been controversial in the past. Tatarian in particular has been known for making toxic and misogynistic comments on a number of now deleted tweets while also denying the existence of any issues in regards to these in the community. With this in mind, many community members were eager to see these players face some sort of repercussion, and were disappointed when that wasn’t the case.
Combo Breaker head tournament organizer Rick “The Hadou” Thiher called Capcom’s response “a disconcertingly worded statement.” Thiher continued stating that “While I usually opt for private conversations, I think this is important to state publicly.” Meanwhile commentator and esports attorney David “UltraDavid” Graham stated “I don’t think this satisfies anyone on any side.”
In addition to all this, Mikey Pham himself mentioned that, while Tatarian was given a warning, “multiple official parties” actually cautioned Pham not to attend the events for his safety. While Pham stated that he personally didn’t feel threatened by Tatarian and Franks’ threats, he also acknowledged that, such threats may have a different affect on newcomers. “The issue, what if this wasn’t me, but someone else? What if these threats weren’t to a male in his mid 30s who has been in the scene for over two decades?” stated Pham on Twitter. “Would they feel safe? Would they be ok attending WNF where Brentt and ChrisT attend? If they didn’t have other friends at?”
In a follow up tweet, Pham pointed out that not doing anything about players like Tatarian and Franks sends the wrong message to players who’ve been victimized. “This is why people don’t come forward,” he stated. “Not only do they get punished for being the victim, they get to watch as nothing happens except more fear due to possible retaliation.”
The controversy comes at a time when more attention has been brought to the fighting game community and possible bad actors within it. While Capcom’s previous banning of Hayes and Bahn may have created big strides in acknowledging the issues within the community, its refusal to do so in this case may have the opposite effect and instead hold the community back.