On the last day of the 2015 League of Legends World Championship group stage, European pro player Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten said in an interview that he expected American team Cloud9 to lose their match that was about to begin. Star C9 player Hai "Hai" Du Lam responded by flipping him off. That cost Hai $772. Rekt?
The actual offending act of Hai giving Febiven the finger happened so fast that many League eSports fans (myself included) missed it during the game's live broadcast. The way that Worlds was structured during the group stage was: after one game was concluded, one or more members of the winning team would head off the game stage for a post-match interview held on a small raised platform close to the front of the crowd. While the interview was being conducted, the next two teams set to compete would be setting up on the main stage.
Fnatic had just beaten Cloud9 on 11 October, the last day of the group stage games. C9 was then scheduled to play against Taiwanese challenger ahq e-Sports club. While they were preparing, Febiven told the post-game interviewer that he that C9 was going to lose again in their upcoming match-up.
"I think ahq is going to win," Febiven said in response to a question about the next game, "because C9's playstyle is really predictable and they're drafting in a similar way every game so I think they are definitely counterable and ahq is the better team."
Hai, who could hear everything Febiven was saying along with the rest of the crowd, gave his opponent the finger. The moment was captured on the livestream, though you might have to watch the video more than once to even catch it:
See the guy at the verry top-left of the screen who's basically just a white blob? That's high. At the 8-second mark in that clip, you can see him raise his right hand.
As the video shows, there was an audible response from the crowd around the same time that Hai flips the bird, but it's not clear if they were responding to him or Febiven's jab. Either way, despite being such a seemingly small and insignificant moment in the overall scope of Worlds, fans noticed Hai's gesture all the same. He clarified on Twitter later that day that he gave the middle finger "in good fun," not "malice":
As a side note, the top response to Hai's Tweet is pretty great:
Despite Hai's assurances, Riot still kicked off an official investigation which ended last night with the competitive ruling saying that Hai had been fined €500, or roughly $772.
Riot's ruling said that Hai making an "obscene gesture towards an opponent while on stage during the final day of Group Stages for the 2015 World Championship" violated section 9.1.3 of the World Championship ruleset, "Disruptive Behaviour / Insults." Here's the text lifted from the Worlds ruleset:
A Team Member may not take any action or perform any gesture directed at an opposing Team Member, or incite any other individual(s) to do the same, which is insulting, mocking, disruptive, or antagonistic.
Most people in the League eSports scene have responded cheekily to the penalty. Including Jack Etienne, the founder of Cloud9:
I bet the pros are going to be more careful about flipping any more birds going forward.
Also, for whatever it's worth, Febiven was right. C9 did end up losing it's game against ahq, as they did with every game they played in the second half of the Worlds group stage. They ended up being eliminated from Worlds shortly after Hai's fateful finger-throwing, along with the two other American teams there.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.