Serbian esports organization Rising Hope announced it is no longer working with assistant coach Vladislav "Simons" Mineev after his alleged sexual harassment of its all-female Valorant team.
All five of the players, as well as head coach Jehiel "Pizzafps" Ardiente, left Rising Hope a week prior to the announcement on Oct. 5.
When it was initially announced that the Rising Hope players and head coach left the org, Simons was said to be sticking around to help form a new lineup that would build on the former's 7th–8th placement in the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT): Game Changers APAC Elite event.
On Oct. 9, Pizzafps released a TwitLonger statement explaining the reason they and their players unanimously voted to leave Rising Hope was that Simons allegedly made inappropriate comments on several occasions, and exposed his genitals on a Discord call with the players.
"After the discussion and planning of strategy," Pizzafps' statement reads, "Simons would just speak out randomly and say, 'Hey Wway call me and show me your dick.' He would say this around three times. It may be an internal joke to them or something but since I am a coach of female players, I found it inappropriate so I called him out telling him that it wasn’t a good joke and that he should refrain from doing that as it was not funny."
According to Pizzafps, the team then decided to hold its own training and scrims without the two assistant coaches until Simons eventually requested to watch them play live.
"The initial 15 minutes were all good," Pizzafps said. "They were on mute while watching the games. After some time, Simons would speak out in Russian while the players were in game and they had a hard time listening to footsteps and concentrating. So, I would call out Simons to mute his microphone but he didn’t stop and would continue to speak. After this, he said 'Wway call me and show me your dick.' I called him out again, saying that it wasn’t funny and to go on mute.
"A few minutes after, he switched his camera on and showed his penis. Being that the players were all on dual-monitors, they were the first to see it and got shocked. I have a single monitor, so I didn’t know what happened. The players left the Discord and I was wondering what happened. I transferred to our Discord and asked them what happened."
After reviewing the scrim footage with the team, Pizzafps said that Simons had been drinking alcohol on camera while "acting inappropriately multiple times."
Per Pizzafps, they went on to inform Rising Hope co-owner Lazar about the incident and open up discussions of dismissing Simons from the team.
"We told Lazar that if he didn’t take out Simons," Pizzafps said, "we would be the ones to leave the org. Initially, Lazar wanted to keep Simons in the org with the reason that he 'is a big star,' but he agreed with the team's sentiments about Simons' behavior, and told us that he will not be joining the team as coach moving forward."
Since Pizzafps published their TwitLonger statement, others in the VCT community have spoken out about Simons' past behavior in the scene, accusing the coach of failing to pay out prize winnings after hosting tournaments and making controversial comments on the war in Ukraine.
"Personally, I got traumatized with what happened," Pizzafps said. "The shock my players went through is resounding, causing me sleepless nights. We just hope that these types of predators would be barred from the scene as this is what is destroying the community and giving the game industry a bad image."