This past week we saw the Combo Breaker event which held tournaments for several fighting games including Street Fighter V. The tournament boasted big names and great play but was overshadowed by an event outside of the games; an incident of sexual harassment by one of the players towards an attendee. The incident was caught on camera during the live stream of the event. After a group picture, Noel Brown was seen inappropriately pinching the backside of a female Combo Breaker attendee who has asked not to be named. She has been contacted by Capcom and event staff and has confirmed that the contact was not consensual.
In the official response from Capcom, the company condemns Noel’s actions saying:
“We do not condone any acts of harassment and we want all of our players and fans to know we will continue our work to ensure that all Capcom Pro Tour events provide safe, inviting environments where the focus is on healthy competition and exciting rivalries.”
In response to the incident, the game developer has decided to ban Brown from all Capcom Pro Tour events for the remainder of the 2016 season. The company also states that the ban lasting only 1 year is due to this being a first offense and that another incident will result in a lifetime ban from the Pro Tour. Capcom has not made it clear whether they mean another incident of harassment, or one more wrongdoing of any kind.
This marks the first time in the three year history of the Capcom Pro Tour that the company has issued a competitive ban towards a player. Aside from their own ban, Capcom finished their official statement with a remark about their solidarity with any other tournament organizers who feel they would like to ban Brown as well, saying:
“We support Combo Breaker’s decision to ban Noel Brown and support any tournament organizer who decides to ban anyone from their event who they feel is creating a hostile environment for other attendees.”
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It seems that this last bit of Capcom’s statement was taken very seriously as only hours after the official statement and ban was released, both Evo and the Killer Instinct World Cup announced that they would not be allowing Brown to participate in several of their events in response to the incident. Ultra Arcade (the company behind the Killer Instinct World Cup) has also pulled its sponsorship of Noel Brown in response to the sexual harassment.
Combo Breaker (the tournament in which the incident occurred) has also taken themselves off the list of possible events for Noel as they have stated he is not invited to compete in the 2017 event. Combo Breaker also has said that Brown’s fate in the 2018 event has not yet been decided, which is leading many to believe Brown may never be allowed return to a Combo Breaker event in the future.
In a post on his Facebook page which has since been deleted, Brown explained that he is close friends with the woman and her boyfriend and that the touching was all innocent. Noel stated that the woman also had touched him in a similar manner the previous day. It has been reported that in addition to the Facebook post, Noel had posted screenshots of a conversation in which the victim said that the incident was “nothing serious.”
Noel Brown has not been a top performer on the Pro Tour this year and has not seen much success since playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3, where he was ranked by some as one of the top players in the world.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Noel Brown has been in trouble while attending an event. Back in 2013 he was arrested for domestic violence while attending the Community Effort Orlando tournament in Florida where Brown fought his ex-girlfriend and a fellow gamer. According to police, Brown “[Struck] him several times in the face with a closed fist.” and hit his ex “causing a bloody nose.”
As tournaments are all organized by different companies and partnerships, the bans placed on Brown currently only apply to Street Fighter V tournaments in the Capcom Pro Tour, Evo events, and Ultra Arcade’s Killer Instinct tournaments, so we still will likely see Noel compete in other events throughout 2016.
Although, with the rapid expansion of esports in recent years it seems many other tournament organizers may follow suit. The swift punishment given to Noel Brown by Capcom, Evo, Combo Breaker, and Ultra Arcade illustrates the esports community’s intolerance of abhorrent and unacceptable behavior. Seeing companies within the space willing to pass down judgement without thought to the reaction or backlash of fans gives many esports enthusiast great hope about the future and integrity of competitive gaming.