Who are LA Thieves? Call of Duty team benches Huke and retains TJHaly for Stage 4, fans call it 'stupid' move
The Los Angeles Thieves have announced that new signing Huke will be benched for the start of Stage 4, due to begin on May 28. This is big news for Thieves fans, who were hoping to catch the player in action for the first time since his transfer from Dallas Empire. The team will instead go ahead with 'Vemom', 'Drazah', 'Kenny' and 'TJHaly' for their first match on May 29.
If you are wondering what we are talking about, we are referring to the Call of Duty (CoD) League esports team. Indeed, esports is now a professional game, much like the NFL, NBA and MLB. The LA Thieves are just one of the many teams competing in the CoD League, a highly popular esports league.
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If you thought esports was a passing fad, think again. The opening weekend saw an average of 80,000 viewers in 2021 with 1.3 million unique views, a new record that is only expected to increase next year. The Thieves are just one of the 11 teams competing globally in the League. Here's everything you need to know about them.
Who are the LA Thieves?
The team was formed in 2020, to replace OpTic Gaming Los Angeles. The team is named after its organizer, 100 Thieves, a lifestyle and gaming brand based in LA. 100 Thieves took over the franchise slot in November 2020, but the terms of the purchase were never disclosed. However, LA Thieves COO John Robinson called the investment "significant". Activision, who runs the league, set buy-in costs at around $25 million in 2019, so it's likely the team had to pay well above that cost to compete.
Interestingly, that cost was the reason the Thieves quit the league in the first place. Back in 2019, the competitive team opted out of the CoD League with founder Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag said the team was "just not equipped and not prepared to make that jump." It's unclear what changed, but when the slot was opened by the exit of OpTic, the Thieves slid right in, much to the delight of hundreds of fans.
Reportedly, the Thieves managed to secure $60 million through two rounds of funding from investors including Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, Scooter Braun and Drake. Forbes reported that a large portion of that was tied up "building a 15,000-square-foot media production and gaming facility in Los Angeles and focusing on its branded apparel business". Along with that, it is believed the franchise dropped out due to cost concerns.
"Last year we would have been making a lot of bets and without full knowledge of the economics," Robinson said. “With the data we are seeing, we are anticipating multiple millions of dollars in revenue increase next year just from this. The math works for us now." With that, the Thieves officially entered the league for the 2021 season, keeping in place the OpTic Gaming players.
The team is currently partnered with JBL, CashApp, Dollar Shave Club, GameFuel, and Scuf. In May 2021, JBL extended its partnership with the franchise. Details were not available, but the audio maker did say it was providing the team with its latest JBL Quantum gaming headsets.
Who plays for the Thieves?
When they were first announced, the LA Thieves retained OpTic Gaming players Austin ‘SlasheR’ Liddicoat, Kenny ‘Kuavo’ Williams, Thomas ‘TJHaLy’ Haly, and Zack ‘Drazah’ Jordan. On May 5, they signed on Cuyler ‘Huke’ Garland, to replace Haly, who was benched for Stage 3. Interestingly though, Huke won't play for the Thieves just yet. Instead, he'll be replaced by the very person whom he was supposed to replace.
"We haven’t been seeing the same level of consistency as a team," head coach Jordan ‘JKap’ Kaplan clarified shortly after news broke. "With Stage 4 starting, we decided to make the tough call and bring Teej back and improve upon where we last left off with him." WIll that change give the Thieves a better advantage? They'll be hoping so, as they look to avoid more upsets. In early May, the team was shockingly defeated by the Florida Mutineers in Stage 3, and ended up sixth in the league by the end of the stage.
Huke's benching has divided fans ahead of Stage 4. Co-owner Jack Dunlop tweeted, "Tough decision but I belueve in the boys." Others though weren't as pleased. One user replied, "Why lmfao who tf makes the decisions u gave Huke like what 3 weeks? So stupid." Another said, "What changed in 3 weeks though? Why not TJ and Huke? Good luck I guess?" Another said, "I don’t know why they didn’t try TJ and Huke. They could have tried rotations instead of just benching him."
Tough decision but I belueve in the boys— Jack “CouRage” Dunlop (@CouRageJD) May 25, 2021
Why lmfao who tf makes the decisions 💀 u gave Huke like what 3 weeks? So stupid— Skinny Mathias (@SkinnyFormal) May 25, 2021
What changed in 3 weeks though? Why not TJ and Huke? Good luck I guess? https://t.co/7vJydWadK8— KG (@MyOwnFather) May 25, 2021
I don’t know why they didn’t try TJ and Huke. They could have tried rotations instead of just benching him.— Reaper (@TestifyReaper) May 25, 2021
If you want to view the league, you can catch all the games on their official YouTube channel. The Thieves are slotted into Group A, with Atlanta Atlanta FaZe, OpTic Chicago, Minnesota ROKKR, Paris Legion, and Seattle Surge. Week 1 of the stage begins on May 27 with the Chicago Home Series. The Thieves Home Series is scheduled for June 10-13, just before the Stage 4 Major.