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League of Legends pro players now recognised as professional athletes by US government

Team Coast's Shiphtur missed out on the 2013 Spring Split thanks to Visa troubles.

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.

Thanks, @RiotDeman.

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It's just silly, they are nothing but over serious gamers like any export competitor.

unwanted's picture

I have no problem calling them athletes.  The word sport now means "people that compete in something", so this is the next logical step.


@unwanted. Gotta disagree. Candy Land is a competition too - there are winners and losers there too. But I don't see anyone starting up the NCLA (National Candy Land Association, of course).

Sports, athletes... these are words that imply you're not simply a competitor, but someone who who is active, healthy and moving. Y'know... "Athletic". Things that do not happen when one plays a PC game... or a video game of any kind. "eSports" is ultimately just a bunch of guys sitting quietly at a bunch of PC's, being incredibly intense and joyless while people watch them. It is really ridiculous that these guys are getting lumped in together with athletes. I'm certain someone in the Government just is doing this as a loophole so they don't have to classify them as something else. That or they could just be done with Riot's "relentless lobbying". What a waste of time and energy, Riot. This has got to be one of the dumbest things anyone has every lobbied for in Congress.

Gamers and Athletes are not the same. This is stupid. I don't care how big MOBA's are, apparently. This is just wrong.

Tim Edwards's picture

Hey Vin: quick note - we now have reply buttons on the comments. :) 


yes esports is just people playing games on the computer but what is soccer people kicking a ball at each other to get it in a net sounds just as stupid when you think about it doesint it. and it does require movement did your definition say what kind move movement and it states "strength, agility, OR stamina" so you need agility to move your fingers acrosse the keyboard as fast as possible it said OR so that means that  you dont need strength or stamina just one of them in this case agility.

so as you can see i respectfully disagree


Yup. Just googled "Athlete" to be sure, unwanted. According to Merriam-Webster: "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina". So... not a professional gamer. 

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