Top Las Vegas Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player Jacob “JK” Johnson has been banned from his local scene after threatening to harm other members of the Smash community.
In November 2017, JK was the center of controversy when a group of Smash 4 players, including top Southern California players Charlie “Charliedaking” Antoun and Scott “S2H” Castro, claimed that he had tried to run them over with his car in the parking lot of a tournament venue. This event allegedly occurred after these players had turned down JK’s invitation to join them for dinner.
In a tweeted apology, JK claimed that the attack was a “bad publicity stunt” and wrote that he was seeking professional help for his mental health problems; however, local tournament organizers deemed this response insufficient, and the Bayonetta main was issued with a temporary ban from his local scene.
On his now-deleted Twitter, JK stated that he was leaving the Smash scene indefinitely in order to seek “rehabilitation.” On June 9, 2018, he met with a group of Las Vegas tournament organizers and provided evidence that he had pursued treatment for his mental health issues. As a result, the Las Vegas “Backroom” of tournament organizers and community leaders lifted his ban.
But that wasn’t the end of it. In September 2018, Las Vegas community leaders reissued JK’s ban from competitive play after meeting with him privately.
“This second ban was not publicly announced...given the current state of his mental health, we agreed that another public announcement would garner much negative attention and would further harm his mental well-being,” wrote tournament organizer Ivan “Navi” Castillo.
After this semi-secret second ban, JK attempted to enter Gamenest, a Vegas local, breaking the terms of his ban. When he was forced to leave, he sent threatening messages to Las Vegas community members, such as longtime player Jordan “Lycan” Aguda.
“next time i see you im going to shoot you in the fucking god damn mouthg [sic]” wrote the 21-year-old player, whose career highlights include a spot on the SoCal Smash 4 Power Rankings and a sponsorship from Yatta Gaming.
Following the revelation of these and other violent threats, national tournament organizer and Vegas resident Bassem “Bear” Dahdouh spoke publicly about his dealings with JK.
“...in September 2018 we had an intervention with him to get him help after learning he attempted to take his life multiple times,” tweeted Bear. “We helped him locate his health insurance & referred him to help in network. We convinced him to leave the scene for his own good and kept it privately for privacy.”
However, said the tournament organizer, as a result of his latest threats, “JK is in custody with authorities.” Many of those who received threatening messages from JK had contacted the police, who acted swiftly in order to minimize any threat posed by the player.
At the time of this article’s publication, JK has been issued a lifetime ban from his local competitive scene and remains in custody.
When faced with violent threats from a disgruntled player, Las Vegas tournament organizers may have seen similarities to the events that occurred in August at a Madden NFL 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, where high-level competitor David “Bread” Katz returned to the venue with a gun after losing a match and killed two of his fellow competitors. In meeting with JK privately and helping him secure mental health treatment, the Las Vegas tournament organizers did the right thing—but their situation was not and has still not been resolved, even with the help of law enforcement.
With the release of Smash Ultimate growing close, tournament organizers are gearing up for a significant influx of new players from all walks of life. As the Smash scene continues to grow, it’s imperative—and almost certain—that tournament organizers in Las Vegas and beyond will continue to make the safety and mental health of their attendees a priority.