Riot Games investigating Griffin after allegations made by former coach

Griffin play onstage during the League of Legends World Championship. Riot Games Korea has opened an investigation based on allegations made by their former coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho. Courtesy of Riot Games

Riot Games' South Korean and Chinese branches and the Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) have opened an investigation into League of Legends Champions Korea team Griffin after allegations raised by their former head coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho.

The investigations began after cvMax said earlier this week during a livestream on afreecaTV that Griffin had mishandled the transfer of their substitute jungler, Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok, to League of Legends Pro League team JD Gaming.

"Riot Games Korea have launched an investigation on the allegations made by CvMax, former coach of Griffin. We are also cooperating with Riot Games China on this matter. We will announce the result of this investigation when possible," a Riot Games spokesperson said to ESPN in a statement. Griffin did not respond to a request for comment.

CvMax alleged that after Griffin loaned Kanavi to JD Gaming in May, that JD Gaming approached the player and asked him to sign with them full time. CvMax said that Griffin director Cho Gyu-nam then approached the player, accusing Kanavi of tampering and threatening him until he signed a five-year contract with JD Gaming that rewarded Griffin a ₩1 billion ($848,252 USD) buyout and put Kanavi on a salary of approximately $170,000, according to cvMax.

CvMax also alleged poor working conditions for Griffin's substitute players, including Kanavi and others. He said that substitute players were not given chairs to sit on while practicing, that they would eat leftovers from the starting players and were not allowed to order takeout food during the night. In multiple interviews during the League of Legends World Championship this week, players denounced cvMax's initial claim that he was treated poorly during his dismissal from Griffin.

"It's always better to immunize yourself from illness rather than fix them when you are already ill. I hope that they do not let this pass with a mediocre response," cvMax told ESPN on Saturday. He added he hopes the investigation move swiftly, even with the team competing at the world championship.

Griffin parent company Still8 CEO Seo Kyung-jong issued an apology on Friday to cvMax and Griffin's players, and said that Still8 would open an internal investigation into director Cho's handling of the transfer. Seo said that Still8 will proactively participate in the investigations being conducted by Riot Games and KeSPA.

"Coach cvMax is a coach who contributed greatly to elevating Griffin to its current position," Seo said in his statement issued on Still8's website. "It is our lack that we have given cvMax the sense of void for this contribution. Also, as the CEO of Still8, I deeply feel for the gravity of the current situation. As the countless domestic and international fans are expressing their censure, we/I decided that we cannot push back a Still8-wide response."

CvMax was dismissed from Griffin on September 25, just one week before the start of the 2019 League of Legends World Championship in Berlin. The coach said during his livestream that his dismissal came after disagreements between he and Cho when the team did not finish first in the 2019 League of Legends Champions Korea Summer Split playoffs.

"Even if you feel extreme loss and frustration about the current situation, we sincerely ask you to wait for our response until the players complete their [play at Worlds] and return safely," Seo said. "After Worlds, we will proactively communicate any facts that we have investigated/found until the fans completely understand [the situation]."