Merely two weeks after their Call of Duty World League debut in Division B of the Pro League, Excelerate Gaming is under investigation. Following a recent roster drop, a video from former player Michael “Beehzy” Said has revealed disturbing details about his experience with the organization. He claims Excelerate is a poorly run organization that lied to its players, paid players late, and engaged in numerous other unsavory behaviors.
It’s everyone’s dream to grind their way from being an aspiring amateur to making it as a professional esports player. For some, it takes years of passion and sacrifice to simply reach the edge of the pro scene. For the Call of Duty squad formerly playing under Excelerate Gaming, they thought they achieved this dream. The team was composed of high-level AMs that were known for always making it out of open brackets into the pool play of major CWL events. Essentially, they were the “gatekeepers” of the CoD AM scene. Coming into the Black Ops 4 season, the roster consisted of the following:
- Michael “Beehzy” Said
- Mike “MRuiz” Ruiz
- Austin “Believe” Smith
- Christopher “ProFeeZy” Astudillo
- Ethan “FA5TBALLA” Wedgeworth
From amateur to professional
With the shift from 4v4 to 5v5, the latest Call of Duty title had more emphasis on teamwork rather than reliance on individual carry performance. The squad thrived under these conditions and performed relatively well early in the season. They earned enough pro points to be eligible for the CWL Pro League Qualifier held in late January. Initially announced before the season started, this season’s Pro League is structured with a single season of play. This means that there is no relegation compared to past seasons of competitive Call of Duty. However, organizations also own the league spot if their team manages to qualify, emulating a franchise system. This is despite the fact that Call of Duty is yet to be franchised and strong rumors point to next season transitioning into a franchised league.
The team, underneath Excelerate Gaming, managed to qualify through a grueling week of matches. Finally, these players could be considered professionals after waiting at the doorstep for years. The dream would quickly spiral into a nightmare as the CWL Pro League officially commenced. Despite winning their first series against the reigning CWL champs roster (currently playing on Team Envy), stability in the roster dissolved.
The team already had issues with player FA5TBALLA due to toxicity and differences. As a result, the team moved substitute player Robert “RobbieB3319” Brugnoli into the starting lineup. FA5TBALLA was moved to the bench for the foreseeable future. However, as revealed by Beehzy in a recent video, the squad was also pressured by the organization into making a roster change.
— Call of Duty League (@CODLeague) February 23, 2019
Needless to say, the decision wasn’t taken well by FA5TBALLA, who promptly sabotaged the MLG-provided team apartment for the team. All the while, the Excelerate Gaming team manager put out a comment that accused FA5TBALLA of being “incredibly toxic and uncoachable.” FA5TBALLA also responded with his own TwitLonger addressing these accusations. Despite the rocky roster change, the squad came in with their new roster.
Unfortunately, the team’s performance worsened. As revealed by Beehzy, the new roster had only four scrims going into their second week of the CWL Pro League. As a result, the team lost all four of the matches. This sent them to the bottom of the Division B standings, with a record of 1 – 6. The dynamic of the team had completely changed, and the team needed time to prepare for the upcoming major open, CWL Fort Worth.
Behind the scenes
Unbeknownst to the rest of the scene, the team’s failing performance was the least of their worries. Throughout the season, the team was not paid, given false information, and was constantly negotiating with its organization. On March 6, Excelerate Gaming officially announced that they were dropping the entire roster (excluding FA5TBALLA). This puts the formerly professional squad orgless, fundless, and unable to participate in the upcoming major. According to the CWL Handbook, owning one player from the qualifying roster allows any organization to keep the Pro League spot. Keeping FA5TBALLA on the roster allows Excelerate Gaming to essentially own the league spot.
Beehzy’s video also exposes that the organization has been pushing for major roster changes since before the league started. Three out of the five players (FA5TBALLA, ProFeeZy, and Believe) were in danger of being replaced. The reason for the change is currently unclear. Excelerate Gaming already has a history of forcing team roster changes. A similar situation occurred with their past Halo team.
However, the most pressing issue is Excelerate Gaming’s apparent reluctance to pay its players. Beehzy stated that he received his pay (as dictated by contract) late and at a reduced rate. The team was seemingly reprimanded for following up on its payments. In an apparent screenshot of a conversation with the CEO of the organization, their inquiries were dismissed as “hardballing.”
The inherent problem
While this case highlights the importance of player safety when it comes to negotiating contracts, it also shows flaws in the current CWL system. The decision to have franchising mechanisms in a non-franchised league is clearly an oversight on Activision’s part. This situation criticizes whether organizations should have complete control of roster decisions. Ideally, a heavily scrutinized application process should root out organizations that might take advantage of players. Regardless, the system still leaves a level of insecurity for players in the future.
It is important to note that many of the details revealed in Beehzy’s video are on his own account. Until multiple parties reveal their side to the story as well as provide hard evidence, it is difficult to conclude anything. In light of the past few weeks however, it does seem like MLG should conduct a further investigation. Just off of recent events, Excelerate Gaming’s eligibility to own a league spot should be put into question.
With many details still unclear, the story remains incomplete. We’ll keep you updated on any further developments of the situation.