“No one wants to see Félix succeed more than we do, and we believe he has a bright future ahead of him. I want to thank him for his time and the passion he brought to the Dallas Fuel,” team owner Mike Rufail said in a statement.
A Canadian in his early 20s, Lengyel has not released a statement, exactly. But he retweeted a player who wrote: “Now xQc can meme and s— talk as much as he wants.”
Lengyel joined the new league as one of the best Overwatch players in North America, if not the world — near the top of the rankings for the wildly popular team-based shooter game. He specializes in playing the character Winston — a brawling ape that often leads his team into battle, as players fight for control an arena.
But like many star players, Lengyel also spends hours each day live-streaming himself playing Overwatch on Twitch (which is owned by Amazon, whose chairman, Jeffrey P. Bezos, also owns The Washington Post). He is known as much for his skill with the monkey as for his on-screen antics — insulting rivals, and screaming, cursing and memeing to the delight of thousands of fans.
When the Overwatch League tournament began in January — drawing what Blizzard said was 10 million viewers in its first week — Lengyel’s personality quickly proved toxic to the league’s mainstream ambitions.
He was fined and suspended during the tournament’s second week for shouting a homophobic suggestion at a gay player from a rival team on his Twitch stream.
After sitting out most of the first phase (during which his team lost nearly every match), Lengyel returned to play, only to cause another embarrassment between matches this month.
He was watching Houston play Philadelphia on the league’s official Twitch channel, typing into the audience chat box like everyone else. After a black announcer appeared on the screen, Lengyel joined others in spamming an emoji of a black man into the chat.
The emoji itself is not racist; it’s just a photo of a black gamer from years ago.
But as the announcer, Malik Forté, later explained, trolls like to spam the picture at black streamers as a way to demean then.
Lengyel said he didn’t know what the meme implied, PCGamer wrote, and only joined in the spamming because his fans had asked him to.
Nevertheless, the Overwatch League suspended and fined Lengyel $4,000 last week — for the emoji as well as using what it called “disparaging language” on his stream and social media, where PCGamer noted Lengyel had recently said the tournament broadcasting “gave me cancer.”
Another Fuel player and two men from other teams were also punished by the league last week — for offenses including anti-gay slurs, offensive memes and sharing an Overwatch account with another player. It was something of a crackdown on bad behavior at the game’s highest ranks.
And it was capped off on Sunday, when news broke during Lengyel’s live stream that he was leaving the Dallas Fuel.
The team’s statement referred to his past suspensions. Lengyel’s Twitch chat assumed he’d been fired, and exploded into all-caps outrage and a string of emoji, some of which were the same picture of a black man that got him in trouble.
Lengyell had sounded contrite after previous penalties, but not this time. “I ain’t sad for s—,” he told his viewers, still playing Overwatch as he talked.
Later in the stream, he implored his fans not to retaliate against the league, as had also happened in the past. “Please don’t chase down Mike and tell him he’s a bad owner. Please don’t chase the team and tell them they’re garbage and I don’t deserve it or whatever. … Um, please don’t send f—ing death threats — again — to people, I guess.”
His was among the more subdued reactions to the news, which shocked many fans, even after they had watched behind-the-scenes drama roil the tournament since it opened.
Some wondered why other pro players, who regularly curse and insult on their own streams, have not been punished.
Many raged that Lengyel had been kicked out of the tournament for behavior that used to pass unnoticed in the gaming scene. “Anyone connected with the incident has been inundated with vitriol from Dallas fans,” wrote Inven Global, an esports site.
And sure enough, Forté, the announcer Lengyel had spammed with a racially charged emoji, was barraged with overtly racist tweets from Lengyel’s fans after the apparent firing.
Forté actually felt sorry for the player, sort of.
“I truly do feel bad for xqc,” he replied to a tweeter called him the n-word. “He needed a mentor, a big homie. Someone levelheaded to provide some guidance. But he had folks like you. And look where we are.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Lengyel was first suspended during the Overwatch League tournament’s first week. He was suspended during the second week.