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EVO co-founder/CEO Joey Cuellar removed after sexual abuse allegations

EVO co-founder/CEO Joey Cuellar removed after sexual abuse allegations

July 3, 2020 | By Chris Kerr

This year's online iteration of in-person fighting game tournament EVO 2020 has been canceled after a number of sexual harassment claims were made against organization co-founder Joey 'Mr Wizard' Cuellar, who has since been removed from his role as CEO. 

Stories shared online accuse Cuellar, who has been involved with the annual esports series since its inception in 1996, of engaging in sexual misconduct. One person claimed that Cuellar, referred to in their account by his pseudonym 'Wizard,' would often bribe "young boys" to take their clothes off and jump in pools. 

"He would pay people hundreds of tokens to do things like take off their clothes and jump in the water hazard pools for certain amounts of times. 99 percent of the time, it was young boys," reads the allegation, posted on Twitter. 

Cellular is also alleged to have paid one person, who was 17 years old at the time, $20 to reveal themselves to him in a bathroom in order to settle a bet. 

As the allegations began to circulate on social media, a number of high-profile developers and players including NetherRealm, Bandai Namco, Capcom, and five-time Evo champion Dominique 'SonicFox' McLean pulled out of the tournament in order to "stand in solidarity with those who have spoken out against abuse."

Evo responded to the allegations on July 2, explaining that Cuellar had been placed on "administrative leave pending a third party investigation." Now, just two days later, Cuellar has been removed as CEO and will "no longer be involved with EVO in any capacity."

"Over the past 24 hours, in response to serious allegations recently made public on Twitter, we have made the first of a series of important decisions regarding the future of our company. Effective immediately, Joey Cuellar will no longer be involved with Evo in any capacity. We are currently working towards his complete separation from the company and have relieved him of all his responsibilities," reads the latest Evo statement

"Going forward, Tony Cannon will act as CEO; in this position, he will take a leadership role in prioritizing greater accountability across Evo, both internally and at our events. Progress doesn't happen overnight, or without the bravery of those who speak up against misconduct and injustice. We are shocked and saddened by these events, but we are listening and committed to making every change that will be necessary in making Evo a better model for the strong, safer culture we all see. 

"As a result, we will be canceling Evo Online and will work to issue refunds for all players who chose to purchase a badge. We will donate the equivalent of the proceeds as promised to Project HOPE."

As for Cuellar, he appears to have acknowledged the allegations in a short tweet. "I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone," he wrote. "I was young and reckless and did things I'm not proud of. I have been growing and maturing over the past 20 years, but that doesn't excuse anything. All I have been trying to do is become a better person. Once again, I'm truly sorry."

These allegations are the latest in a growing number against those in positions of power within the games industry. Dying Light 2 writer Chris Avellone was recently accused of sexual harassment and assault, while a huge number of people have lambasted Assassin's Creed publisher Ubisoft for enabling a toxic culture that protects and emboldens abusers -- many of whom held high-level positions at the company.

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