WNBA Toronto bid co-founder owes esports team over $36K, former player says

One of the men behind a bid to bring a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team to Toronto owes more money to a group of esports players than previously disclosed.

Before he was bidding on a pro sports team, Daniel Escott was the founder and CEO of Iceberg Competitive Esports.

That organization — which acted as an intermediary for professional video game players — folded last year.

Escott, 23, told CBC Toronto on Monday that Iceberg’s players were owed somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000 to $10,000 in total when the organization shut down because of issues with an investor.

But Kurtis Ling, who once played the video game Dota 2 on an Iceberg competitive team, says that number is much higher.

Ling told CBC News Tuesday that Iceberg owes his team and manager $36,500 in total. Other people have also reported that Iceberg owes them money.

Ling said in an email that Escott “willfully took advantage of people’s passion.”

“I don’t believe that he has any of the backing he says he has and that any involvement with this person will not result in any positive outcome,” Ling said.

Ling provided CBC News the contract he says he signed with Iceberg, which outlined a $6,500 payout per player. The team’s manager was also owed $4,000, he said.

  • Look behind the scenes of professional Dota 2 teams:

Ling also forwarded an email sent from Escott in 2018 when the organization was folding, in which Escott said Iceberg accepts “the debt of salaries owed, which we agree will be paid to the parties as soon as possible.”

“We never received a single cent from Escott,” Ling said.

In an email sent Tuesday, Escott said that he forgot that exchange took place.

“This whole chain of events was over a year ago, and in the interest of my own mental health I’ve done my best to forget it ever happened,” he said.

“I stand with the players, what happened wasn’t fair,” Escott said, adding that it took the people running Iceberg several months to dig themselves out of the hole brought on by an investor dropping out.

Hamilton’s Kia Nurse plays for the WNBA’s New York Liberty. A Toronto group says it has launched a bid for Canada’s first pro women’s team. (Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)

“We put the last money the company had towards paying for flights for the players in question so they could all play together,” he said. “The same investor met with the players several times as well, giving them the same personal assurances and guarantees.

“We were all victims of the same circumstance.”

Escott and his group turned heads in recent weeks when they announced plans to bring a WNBA team to the city by 2020, in the wake of the Raptors’ historic NBA Finals win.

WNBA chief operating officer Christy Hedgpeth told CBC news last month that the league has no plans to expand “at this time.”

“We are focused on the overall health and competitiveness of our existing 12 franchises,” she said.

Escott insists his WNBA bid is legitimate, and says his group plans to unveil more information about it at a news conference in the coming weeks.

adam.carter@cbc.ca