With a narrow 3-2 win over Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses secured themselves a spot at the 2022 League of Legends World Championship. Among the celebrations, however, some unfortunate news was brought to light. Tuesday morning, Evil Geniuses’s CEO Nicole LaPointe Jameson released a statement regarding star player Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki.

A Step Back

Sakamaki, who has played a pivotal role in the success of EG this year, has been under fire for his recent performances and EG’s sudden change in strategy. EG, who originally found their success through funneling gold to their star ADC, led the league with a 15-3 record in the Summer Split. However, their run in the playoffs has been uncharacteristically poor.

Rather than fueling Danny, the Evil Geniuses opted to play a more traditional scaling style. Unfortunately, they found little success, losing their opener to C9 3-1, and barely scraping past TSM and Team Liquid to make it back into title contention. While their change in style and Danny’s underperformance certainly were to blame for their shortcomings, it seems that there is more to the story.

In her official statement, Jameson revealed that Sakamaki would be stepping down from the starting lineup for the LCS Finals in order to focus on his mental health. Although no reason has been cited, the 18-year-old has been under a lot of pressure recently. Thought to be the best chance at an international title the LCS has ever seen, Evil Geniuses have had a heavy weight on their shoulders.

Following their third-place finish at the MSI and their first-place finish in the Summer Split, Evil Geniuses were expected to sweep playoffs once more and win it all. It appears that such heavy expectations on the team have had a particularly negative impact on Sakamaki, whose performance is the key to EG’s success.

Clearly indicating that Danny’s stepping down was of his own volition, Jameson goes on to explain that the health of Evil Geniuses players is of utmost importance. Contrary to the sentiments that TSM recently came under fire for regarding their former support player “Shenyi,” it appears that the staff and management at Evil Geniuses genuinely care about their players. Jameson concluded her statement with a request to the community:

“We ask that you show Kyle nothing but unwavering support and the empathy he deserves from all of us…We encourage you to remember that players are humans too, and that they dedicate their lives to this game, with the weight of the world on their shoulders, for our entertainment.”

“Big Stage, big call up.”

With Danny being absent from the starting lineup, Evil Geniuses have some big shoes to fill in their upcoming match in the Lower Bracket Finals of the LCS Championship. While it is unlikely that they would have opted for something different, Evil Geniuses only had one option due to the way Roster Lock works.

Roster Lock, a playoff requirement whereby teams must submit their playoff rosters prior to the end of the split, does not allow for teams to field any players in the playoffs that are not a part of their locked roster. Teams can only include players that are substitutes or part of their academy team on their locked roster. Unsurprisingly, as most successful teams opt not to, Evil Geniuses did not include an additional ADC on their locked roster. A clause in the LCS’s rules, however, permits a team to field a player from their academy team in the event of a “health crisis” (mental health meets the qualification) of one of their roster locked players.

As a result, Kaori (pronounced kaa-aw-re), from the Evil Geniuses Academy team will fill Danny’s spot in their upcoming match against 100 Thieves. Kaori, who has never played in front of a crowd, will make his LCS debut in the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls in Chicago, Illinois.