Player participation has increased so drastically (rising overall from around 350 in 2010 to over 7,300 this year) that Alex Jebailey, CEO’s founder, and the rest of the team moved this year’s venue from the 7-year-staple that was the Wyndham Orlando Resort (where it became so packed that the venue’s air conditioning started losing the battle against the blazing Florida heat) to the Ocean Center, a gorgeous, 200,000-square-foot venue in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Reception for the tournament’s new venue, as with the series itself, has generally been overwhelmingly positive. Unfortunately, however, there were a handful of factors that neither the CEO staff nor the entrants could control, which included racist behavior displayed by several Daytona locals.
Numerous attendees have testified to this in greater detail on Twitter.
San Diego’s Jose “Sway” Cervantes, a Mexican-American Super Smash Bros. Melee player with history in speedrunning, shared the following statement with us regarding the disrespectful speech he had to endure while riding with a local Uber driver:
“I had called an Uber, and within seconds, (I must have just said ‘Hi, is this the Uber for Jose?’) he opened up by saying ‘Wow, you speak much better English that I thought a Jose would.’ and instantly I had a red flag go off.”
Sway’s story quickly became even less pleasant as his driver continued:
“He then went on to talk about his war buddy, who was also named Jose, who knew very little English and went on a rant about that. [...] He was speaking really highly of his granddaughter and was super proud of how good of a runner she is. He then says something along the lines of ‘Our genes are so good she even beat all the Black girls in the 100-Meter.’ and at this point I was actually really bothered.
He had an American flag hat on and kept on ranting on the subject talking about their roots and how he always knew she would be a good athlete because of where their family comes from. This all happened in a short span of 8 minutes because I was housed really close to the venue.”
There were a number of other attendees who testified to experiencing a strong air of racial prejudice in that part of Daytona Beach as well. Echo Fox’s Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, who is renowned for being one of the most gifted Injustice 2 and Dragon Ball FighterZ players, tweeted the following out in regards to his experience roaming around the new location:
I do definitely think the area should be addressed next year @CEOJebailey for CEO. The area as a black man made me highly uncomfortable with the amount of openly racist shit there. The venue is 10/10 but something should be done here.— FOX | SonicFox @ CEO (@SonicFox5000) July 2, 2018
Jason “ANTi” Bates, CEO 2016 Champion for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, tweeted this out:
Im glad people are putting Daytona Beach on blast for being a trash ass area, CEO was a fun ass event but the racism/ratchetness was not a good look.— T1 ANTi (@Anti) July 2, 2018
The momentum for these complaints doesn’t stop there. These tweets generated an abundance of replies from other entrants who attest to similar dissatisfaction and discomfort in Daytona.
Method Gaming’s Ryan “SylverRye” Amaechi also spoke about his own mistreatment and compiled the statements of several others, which generated a lot of feedback.
After SonicFox’s statement on the matter, Alex Jebailey himself responded:
I’ll bring it up in my venue meeting later today to discuss. I’m sorry— Alex Jebailey #CEO2019 #FyterFest SOON (@CEOJebailey) July 2, 2018
Jebailey then spoke more on the venue’s initial selection and how seriously he is taking these claims:
I plan to meet with the city to see what can be done to help ensure CEO's attendees are provided the sense of security they expect from CEO, both inside the venue & outside. I don't have answers today, but I'm listening & willing to try anything I can to make CEO perfect.— Alex Jebailey #CEO2019 #FyterFest SOON (@CEOJebailey) July 2, 2018
Jebailey’s earned himself a great deal of respect within the FGC for his work on CEO. For example, Sway closed out our conversation with a sentiment that many members of the community seem to share:
“CEO overall was an amazing event and I commend Jebailey for all his efforts and the like. He addressed the city’s problems pretty rapidly and I have the utmost respect for him as an organizer. [...] For one thing, I can say that I am extremely happy that he acknowledges these problems and doesn't brush them under the rug. It takes a true leader to do that and it gives me a lot of faith in the event moving forward!”
One thing is for certain: we at Smashboards will be keeping an eye on the evolution of CEO from this point forward, and we sincerely hope that Jebailey is successful in his efforts to improve this situation for his attendees.
(As of now, SonicFox, ANTi, and Alex Jebailey have been unavailable for direct comment.)