After courting controversy for playing in a major Super Smash Bros. tournament over the weekend despite being seriously ill, world-class competitor Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma is now apologizing for his “incredibly selfish” decision.
“It goes without saying, I did a super fuck up today,” Debiedma wrote in a message posted to Twitter on Sunday evening. “And it was incredibly selfish of me. I shouldn’t think I’m above the rules. While I was convinced I didn’t have covid, it was clear I was sick in some capacity. Deciding to play or even go to the venue was a massive mistake.”
According to a now-deleted tweet, Debiedma woke up early Sunday morning vomiting blood while in Las Vegas, Nevada for Double Down, a Super Smash Bros. “supermajor” with over 1,300 players in attendance. A subsequent trip to urgent care indicated Debiedma was sick with either covid-19 (for which he tested negative via take-home kit) or a bacterial infection of his throat and/or uvula.
“Now I gotta play losers bracket [Super Smash Bros. Melee] somehow,” Debiedma said at the time, seemingly ignoring that both potential diagnoses for his symptoms would be highly contagious to those around him. His flippant attitude prompted serious backlash on social media, and concern only increased when footage surfaced of a coughing Debiedma playing without a mask on Saturday afternoon.
Hours later, Debiedma deleted his original tweet, announced he was disqualifying himself “for safety,” and left the Double Down venue. He would eventually post his apology that evening, promising to not “half-ass” covid-19 masking protocols moving forward and encouraging others to follow his lead.
“I hate just saying words and pretending that solves everything,” Debiedma added. “It doesn’t. So let my next actions speak for themselves. I’m sorry and I will be better.”
While it’s easy to blame Debiedma in this situation, it’s clear that some responsibility should fall on the tournament as well. Double Down’s official website notes that players were not to show up to the event if they were feeling sick and that everyone in attendance should have been wearing masks at all times. Why weren’t either of these rules enforced, either in Debiedma’s case or with regards to the numerous people seen without masks in the audience?
Kotaku contacted both Debiedma’s sponsor Team Liquid and the Double Down organizers about this situation, but didn’t hear back before publication.
Frankly, it’s irresponsible that any in-person event is being held with covid-19 variants still cropping up worldwide. And if you simply must be around thousands of people in a crowded tournament venue, the least you can do is wear a mask to protect everyone else. In the enduring face of untold human ignorance, organizers need to go above and beyond to enforce precautions when attendees won’t do so on their own, even if it means turning away one of the best Super Smash Bros. players of all time.