Shooting prompts cancellation of three remaining Madden Classic events

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By MIKE HUME | The Washington Post | Published: August 28, 2018

Software publisher Electronic Arts has canceled the remaining three qualifying events for its Madden Classic esports tournament following the deaths of two competitors at the tournament's opening event held Sunday in Jacksonville. The next tournament was scheduled for Sept. 1 and 2 at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Additional tournaments were to be held in Dallas and Los Angeles.

"We have made a decision to cancel our three remaining Madden Classic qualifier events while we run a comprehensive review of safety protocols for competitors and spectators," Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson said in a statement released Monday night. "We will work with our partners and our internal teams to establish a consistent level of security at all of our competitive gaming events."

The decision comes after the deaths of Elijah Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California, and Taylor Robertson, 28, of Giles, West Virginia. The two men were among twelve people shot when David Katz, a 24-year-old from Baltimore, opened fire at Jacksonville restaurant hosting the event, police say. Katz later turned the gun on himself and was found dead by police when they arrived on the scene.

Wilson remembered Clayton and Robertson in his statement, calling them "two of our top Madden competitors."

"They were respected, positive and skilled competitors, the epitome of the players and personalities at the heart of our community," Wilson said. "Their love of competition was evident through their participation in our events over the past few years. We are committed to supporting Taylor and Elijah's families through this difficult time, and we send our deepest sympathies to their loved ones, to those injured yesterday, and everyone affected."

The shooting has also turned the spotlight on the question of the security provided at the events that comprise the fledgling, but rapidly growing world of esports, the term given to highly structured video gaming tournaments that often carry prize money ranging from four to seven figures. The worldwide audience for esports will reach 380 million this year, and revenue for the industry could top $1 billion by 2020, according to the research firm Newzoo.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, there were immediate calls for heightened levels of security for future events.

"It's time esports events (large and small) double down on security for everyone in general and players specifically," Jason Lake, CEO of compLexity Gaming wrote on Twitter. One of compLexity's athletes, Drini Gjoka, was among those competing at Sunday's event and was shot in the thumb.

It is unclear what kind of security was provided for Sunday's event in Jacksonville.

While the Madden qualifying event scheduled for this weekend in Chantilly was canceled, the surrounding video game expo, GEXCon, will go on as scheduled, Dennis Wiltshire, the CEO of FIAD Entertainment Group, told The Washington Post on Monday afternoon. In addition to security provided by the Dulles Expo Center, Wiltshire and GEXCon also hired its own security force for the event.

Wiltshire said after hearing of the incident in Jacksonville, the FIAD Entertainment Group reached out to both the private security force and the venue to evaluate and review the structure and mechanics of the security to see if anything else was needed. Both groups will again review the security measures this week and see if additional staff or support is necessary. There will be local police presence at the event, according to Wiltshire.

There will also be no guns permitted at the event. Virginia is an open-carry state, but Wiltshire said if any attendee brings a gun - even with their concealed carry permit -- they will not be allowed in the venue.

"We do take the attendees and the security as the two top priorities at our events," Wiltshire said.