After weeks of campaigning and a heavy online push from big hitters in the esports scene like Red Bull, one petition is going all the way to the White House thanks to racking up over 100,000 signatures. The petition is now going to be reviewed by White House staff who are required to give an official on-the-record response.
The petition arose in 2015 after Swedish Smash player William “Leffen” Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was using a tourist visa and needed a work visa. Leffen applied for a P1 Visa (the common visa athletes use to work and train in the United States), but his application was denied due to the government not recognizing Super Smash Bros as an eSport. League of Legends competitors have been using P1 Visas to compete in the United States for years, so Leffen and the teams around him were astonished at his inability to enter the country and compete. The visa troubles prevented Leffen from competing at tournaments like The Big House 5, Smash Summit, GENESIS 3, Battle of the Five Gods, and Smash Summit 2.
On April 29th, 2016 a petition was started on Leffen’s behalf, for the purpose of opening US borders to other foreign born eSports players.
This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William “Leffen” Hjelte.
…he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a “legitimate” sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered “legitimate” sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States. –LINK TO PETITION
There doesn’t appear to be a deadline for the U.S. Government response, but it is an achievement to get over 100,000 signatures before the May 29th deadline, and it shows how many people in the eSports community care about making the culture of competitive gaming international and inclusive.