Influential Smash Bros. tournament organiser Johnathan "Alex Strife" Lugo will no longer be involved with this year's Apex 2015 tournament following a string of allegations involving sexual harassment and other wrongdoing, an Apex representative said today.
Apex, a major Smash tournament that has been an annual event for six years now, made a big splash earlier this month after the organisers announced plans to partner with Nintendo of America — a monumental move for the competitive Smash Bros. community. But over the past two days, a number of people have come out accusing Lugo — who helps run Apex — of harassing women and abusing his position at the company.
Not long after the stories surfaced, Apex announced their plans to cut ties with Lugo.
"At this time, Alex Strife will be stepping down from his duties at Apex. We will be moving forward with Apex 2015," the tournament's organisers said in a statement this afternoon. Apex 2015 will take place the weekend of January 30.
"As it stands Apex 2015 is the largest Smash Brothers tournament ever and the Apex staff hopes to bring you the best experience we can."
The dominos first started falling Sunday evening, when a Smash Bros. player named Kay published a vague tweet referring to Lugo. "I'm glad that as a community we've just decided to ignore that our biggest tournament is run by a repeated sexual harasser," she wrote. "If you don't believe me, ask other women in the community."
Over the following 48 hours, more and more stories started coming out on Reddit and other areas within the competitive Smash Bros. community. In one long Facebook post, player EmilyKiwi accused Lugo of sending her dirty messages against her will, posting a screenshot from an AIM conversation that she says happened when she was 14 in which he allegedly says he'd "go pedo" for her. EmilyKiwi also pointed to a Nintendojo blog post dated November, 2010 that echoes the same sentiment: "It's hard to get the words out with things you have said to me. I have asked you many times before to stop with this creepy pedophile talk you keep giving me."
Shortly afterwards, fellow Apex organiser Mark "ChiboSempai" Korsak chimed in with his own lengthy story about negative interactions with Lugo, as did Tyrell "Nakat" Coleman. The allegations are long and sprawling, ranging back several years, and in fact, older accusations have also began to surface, including a Reddit post from July 2013 that accuses Lugo of mistreating staff and organising poorly.
Other women have also shared stories of similar experiences: http://twitter.com/ImChemX/status/557615557613461504/photo/1
Though Lugo has not responded to Kotaku's requests for comment — and has been radio silent since the accusations came out — Apex social media coordinator Will Hsaio told me in an email that the decision between him and Apex was mutual.
"Team Apex and Alex Strife made a mutual decision that he will step down from Apex," Hsaio said. "No Apex members were aware of any of these allegations that became public. Alex has made no comment. That's all we can say at this point, thanks."
Haley "Nyanidesuka" Jones, a transgender woman who also says Lugo harassed her, wrote a long Reddit post this morning with her own story. In the post, Jones points to three screenshots of alleged Facebook conversations with Lugo, including one in which he allegedly says he "like[s] chicks with dicks."
"Kiwi's post was the first containing a screen capture, and at that point it hit me that if I'd encountered similar harassment, and I had screen captures as evidence, I really couldn't live with myself if I didn't stand in solidarity with the other girls," Jones told me in an email.
This afternoon, a number of competitive Smash Bros. players have spoken up in solidarity with those who told their stories about Lugo, with many emphasising that the Apex tournament should be bigger than one person.
Important to remember: APEX ≠ one man. APEX = ALL of us. It’s a community event & the horrid actions of one individual should not define it.
— Roger DiLuigi III (@RogersBase) January 20, 2015
I feel bad for the other people involved, but it's also clear that Alex needs help on a personal level.
— Daniel Lee (@tafokints) January 20, 2015
"I love this community, and I'm glad I posted what I did," Jones told me. "They have all handled it so much better than I ever thought, and the messages I've been getting from other LGBT smashers telling me that I've helped make them feel a little safer in the game just means the world to me."