What are the implications of SoOn's exit?

20:00, 14 Apr 2021

On April 7, 2021, the Boston Uprising announced the departure of Terence "SoOn" Tarlier from the main roster citing visa issues as the reason for terminating his contract. The news had sparked discussions about the implications of SoOn’s departure, whether or not he had been paid in accordance to his contract, what this meant for other players in similar situations as SoOn, and why Boston Uprising chose to part ways with the player despite the precedent of other players playing without a work visa from their home country. 

GGRecon looked into the circumstances surrounding SoOn’s exit, talking to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

Do other players face contract termination like SoOn?

A lack of a work visa in the region a team is competing in has always counted as a valid reason for the for-cause-termination of a contract within the Overwatch League, allowing teams to terminate a contract immediately without paying severance. However, according to a statement given to GGRecon by an Overwatch League spokesperson, a lack of a visa doesn’t automatically mean that a player won’t be allowed to play for their team in the Overwatch League.

An Overwatch League spokesperson stated to GGRecon:

Given the ongoing pandemic and online competition environment for the 2021 season, there is no League rule that requires players to compete from the same country as their team. However, there are several challenges related to visa, immigration, travel, and employment law issues involved in a player competing from a different country that teams and players face in this type of situation.

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In cases similar to SoOn’s, other European players are allowed to compete for their North American organisation from their home country if their team is fine with this arrangement. 

Will SoOn get paid what he’s due?

An anonymous source familiar with the matter of SoOn’s contract shared that the player will be receiving the full severance in accordance with his contract he had signed with the Uprising. The duration and thus amount of the buyout fee was not disclosed to GGRecon. It follows that while a cause of immediate contract termination was present, the Uprising opted to pay out the full severance.

For the new season, the Overwatch League had allowed teams to introduce a clause into newly signed contracts which gave teams the ability to terminate player contracts without cause for a negotiable buyout equal to at least 30 days of salary owed. The players have retained the right to negotiate this clause which several players have done since the introduction of the clause, according to GGRecon’s sources. 

Why did the Uprising part ways with SoOn?

As President of Gaming Chris “Huk” Loranger explained, the Boston Uprising, as part of the Kraft Group, has to abide by the company’s legal and HR-related guidelines for their employees. Boston Uprising staff familiar with the situation shared with GGRecon that they felt the departure was highly unfortunate as SoOn had been the latest signing for the team in the calendar year, with the situation being made more difficult by the worsening state of the pandemic in France. While players as Kraft Group employees enjoy company benefits, they also have to abide by its regulations entailing HR training, employee onboarding, and a US visa work visa. At which part of the visa acquisition process SoOn was held up is currently unknown. Behind the scenes, an Overwatch League-wide exemption for players is said to be in the works that could help with the issues of attaining a P-1 visa.  

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During his Q&A session, HuK shared that the Uprising had been limited in the player pool to choose from due to company policy in season 3, only being able to recruit players with active work visas.

Other organisations such as the Philadelphia Fusion have run into similar issues in the 2021 season after the team announced their team's relocation to South Korea for the fourth season. However, while unable to attain South Korean work visas at this time, the Fusion have promised to continue to stick with their four non-Korean players, so far signing Hong-joon "HOTBA" Choi, Jin-mo "tobi" Yang, and Dong-jun "Rascal" Kim as substitutes.

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After five years of play at the highest level of Overwatch esports, SoOn has announced his retirement citing a continued desire to compete and the difficulty of finding a spot in the Overwatch League during this season. At 27, SoOn will be switching gears to Riot Games' FPSVALORANT as he announced in a twitlonger today. 

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

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