Super Smash Con, a Super Smash Bros. tournament and convention, has announced they will no longer be permitting a controversial competitor to attend the event in Chantilly, Virginia in the U.S. this weekend due to his alleged history of causing trouble in the community, which includes a recent incident at a tournament in Florida.
Super Smash Con has steadily grown into one of the most important Super Smash Bros. tournaments of the year since being established in 2015. The event regularly features competition in every official Smash game, as well as side events like the Super Smash Bros. 64 combo contest, and this year the event surpassed 3000 attendees for the first time in its relatively short history. When pool assignments were released, however, several players noticed James “Osiris197” Grolig was going to be in attendance. Some began sharing their misgivings about him on social media.
Players described Grolig’s past behaviour in various terms, ranging from him supposedly doing “dumb stuff” to harassment. The most recent incident involving Grolig was a physical altercation at the Florida-based fighting game tournament Community Effort Orlando.
During a confrontation with fellow competitor Michael “RiotLettuce” Heilman, Grolig threw a punch, forcing event staff to break up the two attendees and escort Grolig out of the tournament. Both players made statements online about the fight afterwards, and although neither seemed to agree on who started it, Grolig did acknowledge some wrongdoing and ultimately blamed his actions on alcohol. He then promised to restrict his drinking at future events.
When Heilman realised Grolig would be attending this year’s Super Smash Con, he reached out to the organisation for a response. He shared an alleged screenshot of his private conversation with Super Smash Con on Twitter earlier today that indicated the event would allow Grolig to attend but that he would be subject to a “very strict one-strike policy” to keep him in line. Kotaku has not been able to verify this information with Super Smash Con itself, but Grolig has confirmed to Kotaku that this was the deal he was given since he had already booked travel arrangements.
This proved to be an unpopular decision. Top player Jestise “MVD” Negron publicly called Super Smash Con’s ruling “garbage,” and several members of the community reacted similarly, asking the tournament to rethink its decision to allow Grolig to attend. It only took an hour for the Super Smash Con organisers to release a further statement on Twitter explaining that they would be reversing their original decision. This move that seemed to please previous detractors.
“[James “Osiris197” Grolig] will no longer be attending Super Smash Con 2019,” the message reads. “Safety of our attendees is the absolute priority. We have heard your feedback on how his presence will make many attendees feel unsafe, which is the last thing we want as an event.”
Speaking to Kotaku, Grolig said he understands Super Smash Con’s decision and doesn’t blame them for having to do what they did. That said, he also explained that he feels his ongoing punishment for previous incidents is “excessive and ridiculous.”
“I’ve already been disciplined by my college for what happened at Community Effort Orlando,” he continued. “I’ve had to enroll in rehab and therapy sessions and have done a few already. I was suspended from a school team and banned from everything within 322km of me. I would not even think about doing anything to stir up issues or draw attention to myself at this point, too much has been lost over stupid and unnecessary decisions by me. I was not planning to drink or get involved with anything like that whatsoever at Super Smash Con. I just wanted to compete, top my past major placement, and see my friends.”
Attendee safety has been a major concern at fighting game tournaments since the tragic shooting at a Madden event in Florida. Many major events have instituted bag checks, and some have gone as far as to set up metal detectors to screen attendees before they enter the venue.
Last year, the organisers of SoCal Regionals at one point decided that they were even going to ask players to unscrew and open their arcade stick peripherals so that staffers could check inside of them. That policy ended up getting reversed before the event.
Grolig ended his statement by saying that he doesn’t believe people are “genuinely” scared of him but that they are calling for his banning out of spite. “I don’t know at what point that stops,” he concluded.