Virtus.pro criticize ESL ban; allow team to participate in EPL under neutral name
The organization made a firm stance against ESL's ban but decided not to forbid their players from taking part in the upcoming season of ESL Pro League.
On Wednesday, ESL made a stance against Russia's invasion into Ukraine as the organizer unveiled its decision to forbid organizations with ties to the Russian government and those under alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict from participating in the upcoming ESL Pro League Season 15.
The players representing said organizations would be allowed to participate under a neutral name, without representing their country and organization or their team's sponsors.
Namely, the TO identified Virtus.pro and Gambit as the two organizations affected out of the 24 teams set to take part in the league. The former's ultimate ownership reportedly tracks to Sogaz Insurance group, which is being sanctioned by the EU, while the latter is owned by Russian telecoms network MTS and by extension Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a Russian billionaire believed to have close ties to the Kremlin.
Virtus.pro has now made a statement addressing ESL's decision, claiming that the organization is "not connected to the government" and that there are no "rational reasons to suspend us from playing from tournaments apart from prejudice and pressure from the outside."
But despite calling the decision "a prime example of cancel culture," the Russian organization decided not to forbid their players from playing in the tournament.
"... we won't respond to this aggression with aggression of our own by forbidding our players to play in this tournament," the statement says. "They spend lots of time to become pro players, and unlike some tournament operators, we are not ready to invalidate someone else's efforts."
"If they decide to play at the tournament, we will support their decision."
Although it seems the decision now lies in the team's hands, it is unclear whether they will participate in ESL Pro League Season 15 or not, and the team has yet to comment on the situation.
Current sanctions placed on Russian airlines around Europe make it difficult for anyone to travel from Russia, and Virtus.pro field at least two players affected, Dzhami "Jame" Ali and Evgenii "FL1T" Lebedev, who are believed to have returned to their home country following the conclusion of IEM Katowice.
ESL Pro League Season 15 will take place at a studio location in Germany. Virtus.pro have been placed in Group B, which is set to kick off on Wednesday, March 16.