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The League of Legends Championship Series Los Angeles studio closed its doors for its July 24-25 matches due to a positive COVID-19 test from a staff member of an LCS team. On July 23, Immortals gaming revealed that two of their staff members tested positive for the virus and were beginning quarantine. In the statement, it was determined that they were not to return to the studio at the start of Week 8 of the regular season.
These statements all came in the wake of rising COVID-19 infection rates around the country. The Delta variant has spread across the United States and, specifically, in Los Angeles, California.
— LCS (@LCSOfficial) July 24, 2021
The move back to online play was not smooth. Teams were informed hours after the first day of Week 8 concluded. The second day of games included an altered draft in the match of Evil Geniuses against Immortals.
We had 1 DC during champ select and I said Ryze on 3, didn't hear it in time and Kayn was a Random pick made by the client. Online sucks 🙁 https://t.co/U0Ktgdu1Q4
— André Guilhoto (@AndreGuilhoto94) July 24, 2021
Immortals ended up winning their game, despite the randomly generated Kayne pick, and the rest of the week concluded with players competing from their homes or team compounds. The LCS talent continued the show from the studio.
But the weekend COVID-19 scare raised questions around the LCS, vaccinations and how many of the league’s players are protected against the deadly virus. According to the LCS Players Association, of the 100 LCS and Academy players, approximately 95% of them are vaccinated against the virus.
That number rivals the vaccination rate of the Women’s National Basketball Association at 99% and blows leagues like the NBA and the NFL, who reportedly sit at 70% partially vaccinated, out of the water.
“We have a higher vaccination rate than any city, any state, any country,” Philip Aram, Executive Director of the NALCSPA, said, “so I think we’re incredibly proud of where we’re at.”
The LCSPA is proud to announce that >95% of all LCS and Academy players in LA are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
— LCS Players Association (@NALCSPA) July 25, 2021
The LCS has less overall players than many other sports leagues. However, in light of transmission concerns, and some NFL and NBA players’ open distain towards vaccines, the number is a refreshing sign.
In early July, Aram and the Players Association were given permission to release the information within hours of asking. Due to players going from partial to fully vaccinated, the number of vaccinated individuals went up since the time that the information was originally gathered.
The players are a part of the wider world outside of gaming and see the importance of vaccination. LCS teams have made it easy for players who are interested to get the jab, and the league itself has a variety of incentives for players.
“There are heavy incentives by being vaccinated,” Aram said. “You’re tested much less frequently; you don’t go through daily protocols. There are less limitations on things. For instance, if you’re not vaccinated, Riot won’t do makeup right now on site. There’s a number of protections to shield people in whatever situation they may be in.”
In inquiries sent to all 10 LCS teams about their players’ vaccination status, three teams referred to the Players Association’s statement. Immortals echoed their previous statement that all of their League of Legends players and staff have been vaccinated and the rest declined to comment on the situation.
Players have yet to come out and specifically advocate for the vaccine, mostly due to their busy in-season schedules. But, the LCS’s broadcast has been urging people to get vaccinated before welcoming them back into the studio and at the LCS finals in New Jersey. Aram stated that the number of players in the league that are vaccinated should send a message to fans of the league.
“These are important people that you care about, that you follow, who we watch on Twitch, who you check every tweet,” he said. “These people care and are taking action.”
Aram could not divulge information about the professionals who are not vaccinated. He did say, however, that there are various legitimate reasons for people to decline the vaccine; from medical issues to religious beliefs.
According to Aram, with the rise of the Delta variant, the future of the LCS Players Association is on everyone’s mind. He reported that players and the association are in constant talks with Riot Games about it.
“We’re confident in Riot’s quick decision making to ensure everyone’s safety and we’re looking forward to continuing to work through Delta and whatever comes to make sure that the LCS can continue to thrive,” Aram said.
Declan is an esports journalist and part-time editor for Upcomer. He is an avid gamer and League of Legends player. You can find him at the bottom of the leaderboard in most games or on Twitter.