Filipino Dota 2 pro player Michael "ninjaboogie" Ross has broken his silence over his controversial kick from Team SMG, which happened as his mother was dying from cancer.
In an interview with content creator Jake Lucky, ninjaboogie said that Team SMG's reasons for kicking him from the team at such a difficult time for him were nonsensical.
Such reasons allegedly included the team interpreting as "red flags" an incident of ninjaboogie shouting in anger while alone in a room after he lost his wallet, as well as him striking up conversations with a female staff member.
Team SMG, founded by Singapore pop star JJ Lin, has not publicly responded to ninjaboogie's original allegations.
Finally, I asked Ninjaboogie the reasons he was given for being fired from the Dota roster, here is what he told me (5/5) pic.twitter.com/WFKosPQkoE
— Jake Lucky (@JakeSucky) June 15, 2022
"It made me even sadder because it wasn't even anything Dota-related. I didn't fight with anyone, I didn't know everything you did was being monitored," said ninjaboogie in the interview.
Team SMG announced that ninjaboogie was no longer part of their Dota 2 roster back in May, with the player claiming he was kicked because the team assumed that his mother's death would affect his performance.
Ninjaboogie said in a post on his personal Twitter account at the time that he was kicked "because my mom was on her last days and [Team SMG] assumed it would affect my performance".
"I already knew for some time that this day will come since she had stage 4 cancer. She passed away on [16 May]," said ninjaboogie. "Imagine being fired from a job because you are about to lose a loved one."
Ninjaboogie was a member of Team SMG's first Dota 2 roster, which was announced in January 2021.
He left the team after just three months after they failed to qualify for Division II of the Southeast Asian regional league in the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season.
Ninjaboogie rejoined Team SMG in February this year, helping the team finish in sixth place at the 2021-DPC Spring Tour regional league for Southeast Asia before he was unceremoniously kicked from the team.
Ninjaboogie: The kick was "f*cking brutal"
Ninjaboogie further explained the situation surrounding his kick, saying that he was supposed to fly from the Philippines to join Team SMG on 14 May when his mother was admitted to a hospital on 12 May due to a stroke.
The player said that he asked if his flight could be moved as Team SMG's bootcamp was scheduled to start on 20 May.
On 13 May, Team SMG's sports psychologist called ninjaboogie to evaluate his mental health. On 14 May, ninjaboogie was then called by now-former teammate Yeik "MidOne" Nai Zheng on 14 May to ask about his decision to fly to the Team SMG bootcamp.
In an alleged screenshot of his conversation with MidOne, ninjaboogie told his now-former teammate that he "can't leave [his mother] at a critical time like this" even as relatives were urging him to go.
The former Team SMG player added that leaving as his mother was dying would make him see himself as a "failure as a son".
Further explanation. I was supposed to fly back and join the team on the 14th. My mom had a stroke on the evening of 12th and was admitted. I asked if i could have my flight moved as bootcamp starts on the 20th. Midone gave me a call on the 14th asking my decision.
— Michael "ninjaboogie" Ross (@ninjaboogie) May 20, 2022
After being informed that Team SMG was going to continue without him, ninjaboogie said he was shocked by the team's sudden decision.
"I was not expecting this. But I didn't really wanna argue with him at the time, I'm the type of person that just wants to avoid conflicts," said ninjaboogie. "I woke up the next day and I just had this sense of anger, like this was not right."
The player added that he reached out to Team SMG's sports psychologist to see if the mental health evaluation he did played a part in the team's decision.
"I reached out to the sports psychologist and asked, 'Did I get evaluated wrong? Did I fail it?' And she was just giving me a bunch of different reasons," said ninjaboogie.
"I understand the concern or whatnot, but they're not even willing to give me a try. Just straight up, 'Nah man, I'm sorry.' That's f*cking brutal, I was really upset that day."
The player added that seeing Team SMG's nonchalant announcement of his departure, which made no mention of the reasons why he was kicked, only added to his anger.
"The tweet was fine. But when they posted that gif of me dancing I was like, 'Come on man, this was not my choice.' They made it sound like a mutual parting when it was not," said ninjaboogie.
His sudden unemployment left ninjaboogie reeling.
Not only had he been taking care of his dying mother, he had also been acting as his family's breadwinner after his father passed away in 2020. Before rejoining Team SMG in February, ninjaboogie resorted to using his life savings to provide for his family.
"I was living paycheck to paycheck already at that point. My mom actually thought that I was leaving and she told me to leave, then the next day I couldn't tell her because I couldn't put that on her," said ninjaboogie.
The player went on to say that Team SMG's manager, Orrin Xu, flew to the Philippines to visit him and pay his respects.
It was an unexpected gesture, and ninjaboogie hoped at the time that it would be genuine.
The player then explained that, for the first couple of days that Xu was with him, the visit did seem genuine. However, the manager brushed aside ninjaboogie's attempts to talk about why he was kicked by Team SMG.
On the day before ninjaboogie put his mother to rest, Xu finally addressed the situation and revealed Team SMG's aforementioned reasons for letting the player go.
The manager also told ninjaboogie to post a tweet saying that he already met with the organisation to clarify the situation.
"I was like, you were so close bro. I told my sister about this and she was like, 'He's not allowed to go to the burial.' That was very disrespectful," said ninjaboogie.
Just laid my mom to rest. I would like to give a huge thanks to everyone who reached out and sent warm messages and condolences. Too many to reply to individually but know i felt the love. Wish you all the best :)
— Michael "ninjaboogie" Ross (@ninjaboogie) May 26, 2022
Team SMG have since replaced ninjaboogie with Swedish player Johan "pieliedie" Åström. The organisation has yet to issue any statements on its decision to kick ninjaboogie.