The darker side of the esports world came to light once again, in the days following the fighting game mega event Evo, as Capcom banned longtime Street Fighter pro Leah “GIlty” Hayes from the company’s Capcom Pro Tour.
The ruling came down last week after the company’s investigation of multiple accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate touching against the out trans esports athlete.
“Over the past several days Capcom has received a number of troubling complaints about Leah “GIlty” Hayes from community members. Following a review of these allegations and other information available to us it is clear that there have been multiple violations of our player code of conduct over an extended period. We therefore have concluded that we have no choice but to ban “GIlty” from all Capcom owned and/or operated events including Capcom Pro Tour and Street Fighter League until further notice. This is a global prohibition, meaning it applies to tournaments and events in any location throughout the world.”
Multiple major FGC events, such as Combo Breaker and Community Effort Orlando, subsequently announced their own bans of Hayes following Capcom’s statement.
The claims against Hayes came to light publicly after Dragon Ball Fighterz pro Dawn “Yohosie” Hosie recounted her own alleged assault on Twitter by Hayes. “Gllty touched me inappropriately and publicly during CEO2015. Have heard warnings from other women since. Burned the incident from my memory until she tried to get ahead of the controversy and apologize,” wrote Hosie.
The apology Hosie referenced came in a now deleted series of tweets by Hayes two days before Capcom’s decision. “I’ve flirted with a lot of women, and in more than one instance I’ve made them feel uncomfortable. I’ve made mistakes with boundaries, and I’m aware I’ve hurt people,” Hayes wrote. “I’m sorry both to those who believed in me and also those I’ve affected negatively … It’s my obligation to take responsibility … taking ownership of my actions is the first step,” she added.
Hosie, who is LGBTQ herself, further claimed that a number of women reached out to her via DM with their own stories of assault by Hayes after her tweet. “Gllty has been known for this type of behavior. But after this tweet I received DMs that tell me this behavior has not stopped, and in 4 years she continued to act this way,” said Hosie.
Hosie further questioned Hayes’ apology, saying her behavior hadn’t seemed to change in years since: “It’s important to take time into account regarding character growth – mine was 4 years ago. That’s why I don’t believe she should be forgiven; it’s been happening as recently as this year, and from stories I’ve heard as recent as this month.”
Hayes’ ban comes amid a number of incidents and bans in the days following Evo 2019 earlier this month. Two women reported being sexually assaulted at an Evo after party hosted by Red Bull. CEO Gaming organizer Tong Lee stated his belief he was roofied at the same party after consuming a drink meant for a female friend. Prominent FGC event photographer Chris Bahn and Smash Bros. pro Davon “Promaelia” Crawley confessed to separate incidents of inappropriate contact while Ari “Floe” Weintraub denied reports of sexual abuse. Bahn’s confession resulted in Combo Breaker banning him from future events.
The rash of sexual assault claims elicited a response from top FGC athlete Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, asking the community to be better. “Damn all this news in the FGC is just so depressing. Keep your hands to yourself wtf?”
The response to Hayes’ ban hasn’t all been healthy, however. Many commenters and FGC fans reverted to hurling transphobic insults at Hayes, prompting fans and FGC organizers alike to ridicule those taking advantage of a serious situation to spread hate speech.
No criminal charges have been filed against Hayes as of press time.