On March 19th, TSM, one of the most influential esports teams in North America, released an announcement on Twitter regarding the League of Legends department coach, Peter Zhang. The team decided to terminate Zhang’s tenure effective immediately due to “serious allegations of conflict of interest.”
There was no information given from TSM on what the COI was even about. However, fans and analysts have their own takes on the situation.
The sudden decision brought much scrutiny upon the team. Since the team has not further explained the decision, people on Reddit and Twitter speculate that it has something to do with match-fixing, as TSM brought on two Chinese players who used to play in the League of Legends Development League (LDL) in 2021.
In 2021, 38 LDL players and coaches were penalized and banned due to match-fixing, making it the most infamous scandal in the history of the Chinese League of Legends community. However, LCS Commissioner Jackie Felling replied to the Reddit threads, in an attempt to stop speculation.
“Nothing to do with match-fixing,” said Felling. “This is an internal team matter. Not making a statement from Riot at all but I don’t want people to think this had anything remotely to do with match-fixing or betting which it does not.”
One day later, an article was published on Dexerto, indicating the departure of Peter Zhang was actually due to a different issue. As a part of the League of Legends department coaching team, Peter Zhang also scouted talent for the team. His position allowed him to work alongside the management team to recruit the players that he thought would benefit TSM. Undoubtedly, Zhang played a significant role in bringing Zijie “Shenyi” Wei and Xiong “Keaiduo” Zhu on during the off-season. Sources explained that Zhang would meet players and offer to be their “agent”, helping them get on the TSM roster. In the meantime, Zhang would also take a huge cut of players’ earnings, which is much higher than a standard agent’s fee.
Another claim made about Zhang was that he was borrowing significant sums of money from players and staff across the entire team. Former TSM player, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng disclosed that Zhang asked multiple players on the team for money ranging from $12,000 to $25,000 due to a medical emergency for his grandmother back in China.
Zhang had also approached Doublelift for a loan of $70,000 for the same reason. “He asked me to borrow him $70,000. He said his grandma had cancer, and she’s dying in the hospital,” said Doublelift. “He needs to pay the hospital bill, which is $70,000, and he doesn’t have the money yet, but he will have the money by the end of the month.”
Sources pointed out that Zhang also kept a former player’s money and stalled payments. At the end of 2021, when Shuo-Chiech “SwordArT” Hu finished his contract with TSM and was planning to go back to China to play for Weibo Gaming, he asked Peter Zhang to sell his car after SwordArT left the United States. After the car was sold, Zhang appeared to be stalling payment of $80,000 due to his grandmother’s medical emergency.
After the announcement was made, Peter Zhang spoke with Dexerto.com, denying all the allegations, and said his behavior of borrowing money was merely a tragedy of cultural difference.
“It is common in China for friends and colleagues to loan each other money. I have learned a hard lesson about the cultural differences in America,” said Zhang.
Currently, TSM has not made further announcements as they “have no additional comment beyond the original statement at this time.”