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(Author’s note: The con­tent of this ar­ti­cle con­cerns it­self with the ac­tions of Wizards of the Coast and pro play­ers, not with the le­gal rul­ings of Jesse’s case, and does not take a stance on his ver­dict.)

On May 10, oth­er­wise nor­mal cov­er­age of Grand Prix Atlantic City – one of Magic: The Gathering‘s (or Magic, as its also called) pop­u­lar open events – was in­ter­rupt­ed with a sin­gle tweet by Drew Levin, writer for StarCityGames.com, con­cern­ing one of the play­ers in the event’s Top 8.

The tweet’s — pic­tured above — sub­ject is Zachary Jesse, who in 2004, plead guilty to ag­gra­vat­ed sex­u­al bat­tery.  He was sen­tenced to 3 months of an 8 year prison sen­tence, and was re­quired to have no con­tact with the vic­tim and to with­draw from their mu­tu­al uni­ver­si­ty un­til she grad­u­at­ed.

Aside from heat­ed de­bate and crit­i­cisms lev­eled at sup­port­ers and de­trac­tors, fur­ther in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing Jesse did not sur­face un­til last week.

Pory magic side 1On July 2, a post on /r/magicTCG – reddit.com’s sub-forum for Magic – no­ti­fied the com­mu­ni­ty that Jesse had re­ceived a ban from or­ga­nized play.  Any tour­na­ments, Grand Prix, Pro Tours – any­thing that re­quired Jesse’s of­fi­cial reg­is­tra­tion num­ber, he could no longer play in.  In ad­di­tion, Jesse’s ac­count on Magic: The Gathering Online – the of­fi­cial on­line client for game­play – was ter­mi­nat­ed and his vir­tu­al col­lec­tion seized, al­though Wizards of the Coast (WotC) agreed that they would liq­ui­date his ac­count and re­im­burse him for it (not with­out stress­ing that this wasn’t some­thing they had to do).  Both bans will ex­pire in 2049 which is, as the com­mu­ni­ty has not­ed, es­sen­tial­ly a life­time ban for Jesse.

WotC has not is­sued an of­fi­cial state­ment from any of their so­cial me­dia ac­counts, but a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the com­mu­ni­ty was au­tho­rized to post the fol­low­ing mes­sage to a thread in /r/magicTCG:

We work hard to make sure all play­ers feel wel­comed, in­clud­ed and safe at our events so that they can have fun play­ing Magic. We don’t gen­er­al­ly com­ment on in­di­vid­u­als or pro­vide po­si­tion state­ments in the ab­stract, but we take ac­tion to ad­dress play­er is­sues and com­mu­ni­ty con­cerns when we feel it is nec­es­sary.” – https://archive.is/IGBje

Community opin­ion of the ban­ning and the sit­u­a­tion lead­ing up to it has been di­vid­ed, but the gen­er­al con­sen­sus has been that Jesse’s ban sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for or­ga­nized play.  Some users have ex­pressed con­cern that they will also be banned for hav­ing a crim­i­nal record, even if it was for some­thing that hap­pened years ago.  Others have ar­gued that Jesse’s ban has noth­ing to do with his crim­i­nal record, in­stead hap­pen­ing as a re­sult of the out­cry on so­cial me­dia dur­ing GP Atlantic City; they note that Hall of Famer and pro­lif­ic Magic writer, Patrick Chapin, also has a crim­i­nal record for the sale and pos­ses­sion of ec­sta­sy, yet not only is al­lowed to play but serves in many ways as a pub­lic face for Magic’s com­pet­i­tive scene.

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A few have made the sug­ges­tion that Jesse’s ban is due to WotC try­ing to clean up their pub­lic im­age and make Magic a safe space, some­thing that seems to be sup­port­ed by WotC’s only pub­lic re­sponse to the Jesse ban, and ar­ti­cles on in­clu­sion re­leased by high­er ups with­in the com­pa­ny.

This isn’t the first time an up-and-coming pro play­er has re­ceived neg­a­tive pub­lic feed­back from oth­er pro play­ers.  A sim­i­lar in­ci­dent oc­curred in May at Grand Prix Las Vegas Modern Masters 2015 Draft, where Pascal Maynard was pub­licly crit­i­cized on Twitter by pro play­ers and ChannelFireball.com co-writers William Jensen and Owen Turtenwald for pick­ing a foil Tarmogoyf in his sec­ond pack first pick.  Picking the card, worth about three hun­dred dol­lars in near-mint con­di­tion, led to Jensen and Turtenwald dis­miss­ing Maynard for “dis­grac­ing com­pet­i­tive Magic” by not tak­ing an­oth­er card that worked bet­ter with the cards he had al­ready picked.  Maynard went on to place fifth over­all in the event and auc­tioned off the card on eBay with the in­tent to keep part of the mon­ey and do­nate the rest to the char­i­ty Gamers Helping Gamers (the card sold for $2007).  Jensen and Turtenwald both is­sued pub­lic apolo­gies and con­tin­ue to write ar­ti­cles for ChannelFireball.

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The sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween what was termed on so­cial me­dia as “GoyfGate” and the ban­ning of Jesse are eas­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able.  In both sit­u­a­tions, up-and-coming play­ers were pub­licly crit­i­cized by writ­ers for pop­u­lar Magic web­sites who seemed to have suf­fered no penal­ties for do­ing so; in both cas­es the crit­i­ciz­ers were even ap­plaud­ed by some with­in the com­mu­ni­ty for their ac­tions.  Professional lev­els at any sport are very much clique-ish, and Magic is no dif­fer­ent.  Some vet­er­an pro­fes­sion­al play­ers do not like to see “fresh blood” come in and usurp po­si­tions that they’ve held for years.  It’s pos­si­ble that some of these play­ers who shamed Maynard and Jesse did so to dis­cred­it or down­play the achieve­ments they’ve made in the com­pet­i­tive Magic set­ting.

Time will tell if WotC will re­verse its de­ci­sion in the face of calls to boy­cott the com­pa­ny, but as some peo­ple have said: if this ban was an at­tempt to make us feel safe to play Magic, it just isn’t ac­com­plish­ing that.

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