They will remember the tail end of this week as the moment America began to recognise League of Legend pros for what they are: proper sportspeople. Alright, They probably won’t remember anything but the weather - but in the wake of yesterday’s Season 3 finale venue announcement, that’s certainly what appears to be happening.
In the course of a sizeable chat with Gamespot, Riot eSports manager Nick Allen revealed that LCS pros can now acquire the same US work Visas given to NBA (hand-ball), NFL (hand-egg), and NHL (hand-stick) players.
“The United States government recognises League of Legends pro players as professional athletes, and award Visas to essentially work in the United States under that title,” he said. “So this is groundbreaking for eSports. Now when [international players] come over, it’s a much easier process because they are actually recognised by the government. It’s a huge thing.”
From the sounds of it, Riot drove the shift in classification through relentless lobbying.
“This is a lengthy process, we had a lot of people fighting for this, and it wasn’t something that happened overnight,” continued Allen. “This is constant back and forth of like, ‘Show us more proof, is this realistic’, and that sort of thing. Eventually it got to the point where they were like, ‘Okay, we have no reason to say no. This is legitimate’.”
Legitimacy. That’s a pretty good starting point from which to springboard into mainstream sports culture, right? At the very least, it should bring an end to the kind of Visa issues that scuppered the early part of Team Coast’s Season 3.