Not Every Player needs to be a Role Model – Why the Controversy surrounding SKT Bang is Unjustified

Photograph taken by: Riot Games

Latest drama on the Korean scene has brought a heated discussion in the domestic environment but also to the Western world. Bae ‘Bang‘ Junsik’s comments have been claimed to be disrespectful and were even labeled as insulting towards the financially disadvantaged. The Korean AD Carry has responded to a donation in which a viewer told the player to work harder, as Bang’s teammate Lee ‘Faker” Sang-hyeok got a 1000 $ donation. Junsik replied by banning the user and saying that his salary is bigger than even what a thousand people like the donator could come up with and that viewers should stop comparing him to others. While the donation comment itself was provoking, the streamer’s response lacked restraint. The situation took place in February but resurfaced in July, after SKT’s losing streak and Rift Rivals’ failure.

The Circumstances and the Human Aspect

Let’s start with the circumstances of Bang’s comments. The AD Carry has never been labeled as the best SKT player. There were times when fans thought of MaRin to be the star of the team and the primary carry. Throughout the history of the current roster, it has always been Faker, who has been in the center of attention though. Bang was merely a second or third best player in the formation. It’s possible that Bang has never cared about that and the lack of spotlight did not bother him but it potentially could have impacted his actions. The AD Carry has been considered one of the most consistent players on the planet but it feels like he’s never gotten enough praise for it. Considering that, being compared to another player could have been unpleasant or could have even felt like a sort of an insult to him. It’s also worth taking into consideration, that SKT T1 has been on a losing streak when the drama emerged. It was brought up by fans calling for KeSPA to take actions against the player. It’s not completely insane to think that those complaints wouldn’t have been made if SKT were doing better. Obviously, it’s possible that the slump factor has not played any part in all of this but is it really unreasonable to consider it while judging Bang’s actions?

I have seen a plethora of comments from the Korean community saying that Bang should be penalized for his behavior. Many call for a financial punishment or even a suspension. It is possible as player’s actions fall under selected Paragraphs of the Official rule book for League Champions Korea – more information about this can be found in this Andrew Kim’s article. The only question remaining is if Bang should be punished at all. While many suggest that it is necessary to set an example, there are some who say that any penalization is pointless.

Although what Bang did wasn’t very respectable, it certainly doesn’t justify the obsessive amount of abuse he’s received
The Role Model Aspect

All of this brings us to the most important aspect of the whole situation. Those who want Bang’s actions to be sanctioned say that Junsik, like every other professional player, should be cautious about own actions because he’s a role model. While that statement is true, the matter of being or not being a role model is something worth looking at. Korean and to a lesser extent also Western League of Legends community have developed a certain view that every player should always act like a role model no matter the situation. I suppose that comes with the job and is an essential part of becoming a pro. There is an argument to be made, that most of the players are young and usually just a few years older than those watching them. It’s hard to expect a lot of maturity from each and every player – some of them are just 18 and all have different backgrounds. Obviously that isn’t an excuse for one’s actions, especially during official games or tournaments but being harsh on someone quite young for acting freely on his own stream is a little bit too much. Forcing every player to become a role model seems somewhat unhealthy. It is necessary for them to act within certain boundaries and be a good example but it really feels unfair to expect a true role model stance from every single pro in every single situation.

Everyone is human – Bang is no exception to that rule

To elaborate – there must be some space for mistakes, especially outside of competitive environment. It was Bang’s stream where the comments were made, not an official game. He should be entitled to act like he wants on his own live transmission. The way he replied was wrong and it’s obvious why some people could find it offensive but as the player himself said – he’s not patient and he meant no harm to anyone. Many members of the community make Bang out to be a villain, which he’s not – he’s just a person, like the rest of us. He tries his best to set a good example but maybe he’s not a born role model.

As I’ve said before, it is important to always consider the circumstances and the environment in which the actions happen. It’s fair to expect a certain standard from every player as their viewers are often younger and are likely to follow pro’s steps. What’s not fair is expecting someone to be crystal clear in every possible situation. Bang is 21 years old and is there really anyone who can call themselves surprised that a young player who felt offended acted out on it? I’m not trying to say that we should ignore such comments but I’m calling for some understanding and reviewing our expectations towards the players. They should be treated as role models during the official games and should set an example outside of the profession environment.

Was Bang a role model during every single of his professional games? Should he be treated as a role model in his Solo Queue? The answer to both of these questions is yes but should he be treated like a role model on his stream? No – he should be free to express himself there and only be restricted by the rules not by fans’ image of what a pro player should be like.