Overwatch League founding member Boston Uprising has recently come under heavy criticism for its player management. The Kraft Family owned Group was one of the success stories during season 1. Picking up several unknown players for the inaugural season, their run saw them reaching the Season Playoffs. They are also the only team to go without a single loss during the entirety of a Stage. They were 10-0 during stage 3 having not lost a single match.
The Boston Uprising structure
Robert Kraft was one of the first names to be associated with the Overwatch League. The Kraft Family has diverse interests and is well-known for its ownership of the New England Patriots.
The Kraft Family signed Chris ‘Huks’ Loranger as their ‘President of Gaming’ in August 2017. His role in the organisation involved handling the gaming section for the Kraft Family. The immediate concern was the signing of a strong Overwatch roster for the first season.
The Boston Uprising roster for the first season did not evoke much enthusiasm from the analysts and fans. After all, most of the players were relatively unknown compared to the big names. While they had some experience in the Tier two scene, they paled in comparison to the Surefours and the AKM’s of the game.
However, the roster was characterised by its amazing performance and strong showing through the season. The Boston Uprising roster managed to become the only team to secure a 10-0 score in a stage [ Stage 3 ]. At this point in time, Chris Loranger was the architect behind the successful Boston team. His role in handpicking the players and helping carve them into one of the strongest teams in the League was evident.
However, there seems to be a darker side to the story, one in which Chris is no longer the blue-eyed boy.
Allegations of Poor Team Environment and mismanagement
A recent report by Yiska and Benchmob on VPesports.com has put forth several allegations against Chris Loranger. According to the report, Chris was the man responsible for creating discord within the roster. His insistence on separating the Korean players and the non-Korean players was instrumental for the eventual problems in the team.
The Overwatch league has a majority of players from Korea. Their high skill level along with a better understanding of the games makes them an inevitable part of any OWL team. The first season saw all twelve teams have at least one Korean player on their roster.
Chris Loranger instructed Da-hee “Crusty” Park to tend to the Korean players. The rest of the staff would help to coach the ‘English Speaking’ part of the roster. This division within a top Esports team in such a manner usually is a recipe for disaster. The Boston players started feeling the pressure and the hostile team environment was not conducive to a better performance.
There are also allegations of Gamsu being asked to translate for the players after the departure of Kalios.
Poor team environment
The team had to cancel multiple scrim blocks during Stage 4 as the internal situation worsened according to VPesports. The President of Gaming would attack the players and staff for ‘minor mistakes’. He also made a staff member cry in front of the entire team on one occasion after verbally attacking him. It was a combination of all such factors wherein the players had to ask Chris Loranger to take a step back during the mid-season. In turn, he gave up more responsibilities to Da-hee “Crusty” Park and assistant coach Jackson “Shake” Kaplan. As a result, Boston Uprising were 10-0 during Stage 3 and undeniably the best team at the moment.
However, things turned for the worse during Stage 4. Some individuals on the roster would revolt against the Boston Uprising management and their player handling. The atmosphere within the team was more conducive to team coordination and excellent gameplay. Boston Uprising’s performance in Stage 4 was quite bad compared to their Stage 3 dominance. They ranked eighth in the Stage leaderboard, a far cry from the 10-0 during Stage 3.
Kalios was also banned from the team’s practice facility. No other team in the Overwatch League has had players banned from their practice facilities. Banning a player in such a manner does nothing to help improve the team environment.
Insanely high Buyout Prices
A team is entitled to ask for a reasonable price for a player’s buyout fees. However, Boston Uprising is asking for prices which amount to almost four to five times the players’ salaries. The norm in such situations [ from other similar epsisodes] is to adjust the new salary to be comparable to the current salary. In certain situations, the existing team renegotiates the salary based on the perceived player value at the time. Boston Uprising’s demand for insanely high buyout fees surely limits the opportunities available to their players. Despite eight new Overwatch league teams in Season 2, the Boston Uprising players have not seen much movement. The high buyout price is a limiting factor in any negotiation.
The Atlanta Reign recently signed former Boston support player Se-Hyeon “Neko” Park to their team. According to sources, this deal itself was worth around $200 million, an insanely high price.
The other players on Boston Uprising have not vocally come out against the management yet. This is partly due to their unwillingness to tarnish their marketability for Season 2. No team would want a player who speaks up against Management and tarnishes the reputation of their team.
Chris ‘Huks’ Loranger responds to allegations
Chris sheds light on the allegations with a detailed blog post. He clarified several situations such as Gamsu having to translate for the players. He mentions that Boston Uprising has had an official translator within the team since the start of the season. The players would require to explain intricate esports jargon to each other at times, which was beyond the scope of the translator.
He does mention that Crusty was assigned to the Korean players as they had a better working relationship. However, all players would be present during all scrims, team practices and VOD reviews unlike as mentioned in the report.
As we get deeper and into the more interesting questions raised in the report, Chris does not have much in terms of clarification. His stance on player transfers and the high buyouts is a very political one, often declining to comment on the issue. This is probably because he is contractually forbidden to do so. However, his silence on the team’s internal problems especially ones pertaining to Kalios / Striker is obviously a personal choice. Regardless of whether he has the players’ best interests in mind or not, there seems to be more to this story.
Neko retorts with a short, direct comment
According to sources, Toronto Defiant has already bought out Neko for around $200,000. This is an insanely high amount of money for a single player. However, now that he is out of the Boston Uprising roster, Neko can freely speak up about what happened in the team.
The translation posted on Reddit by user /u/astroasto is as follows:
“That’s just an excuse. He turned the problem to his own advantage. Such a Bastard’
Right now, Neko has posted on a Korean forum where he calls out Huks for being a liar. He mentions Huks as a person who is trying to turn a bad situation into an advantageous situation.
Neko’s hate for Chris Loranger is obviously evident in his comment. The players had a very bad time on Boston Uprising, despite being a team that no one expected to do so well. Indeed, Analysts were even predicting Boston Uprising to be worse than Shanghai Dragons before the start of the season.
Where is the Overwatch Players’ Union?
Overwatch is in desperate need for a Players’ Union. For an esport that is probably the first point of entry for non-endemic organisations, the lack of a players’ union is a huge issue. A players union provide a singular point of negotiation for teams and Blizzard alike. It also enables the players to have a collective bargaining power. They can demand better facilities, housing as well as a meaningful communication channel with the Overwatch League. The players having a place on the table for the future of Overwatch League is extremely important.
We did hear rumours of an upcoming players’ union early in the year. SportsBusinessDaily reported that the union is in works and it would be crucial for the future of the esport. However, we are inching closer to the start of Season 2 and there is no announcement yet of a players union. The players need to understand the importance of a union in order to protect their rights. With time, we will get a players’ union, it is inevitable. However, the earlier it happens, the better it is for the players themselves.
For now, we will keep you informed if any team decides to pick up the insanely high buyout prices of the Boston players.