Another big Pokémon tournament was held in Hartford, Connecticut over the weekend, and new champions were crowned across TCG, Scarlet and Violet VGC, and Pokémon Go in several age divisions. The celebrations didn’t last long though.
After being crowned the 2023 Hartford Regionals TCG Champion, Rowan Stavenow was called out for antisemitic behavior based on a video circulating around the community. While the TCG player has since told Dot Esports he plans to continue competing for the world title this year before focusing more on university and local events next season, outrage has only continued to bubble up across the card game fandom.
The video in question showed that a swastika had been shaved onto Stavenow’s head. The swastika of course became a symbol of the Nazi party during the Holocaust.
Alarmed and outraged by the video, players in the community voiced their concerns about the situation across social media on May 22.
TCG pro Josh Frink, a Jewish player, said he doesnt feel safe going to Pokémon events like the one in Hartford. This dude had a Swastika shaved into his head. To me, that means I stay the hell away for him or I could end up hurt or dead.
At the end of the day, he (and his friends who actually shaved it into his head) are making light of something that has and is actively costing people their lives,” Frink added. “I hope that Pokemon and the community at large do what they can to drive this kind of behavior out of the community.
Another Jewish member of the Pokémon community, Jared Grimes, chimed in on the situation soon after too. It’s sickening that anyone would do anything but condemn this behavior in these times. ‘But he’s not a Nazi!’ Nobody cares at this moment in time,” he wrote in a Twitter thread on May 22. “This has been a tragedy against the Jewish community. Support those who need it instead of defending this person.
Many others in the community were also hurt and disappointed by what they’d seen or heard in regard to Stavenow’s involvement in the swastika video. It marks yet another instance in which the TCG environment is becoming less of a safe place for people of all backgrounds.
Stavenow later released a statement with an apology and an explanation.
He said he was initially unaware his friends would shave a swastika onto his head and wouldnt have allowed it if he had known. He added he felt gutted when he learned his friend had made the video public and said it was not a joke to him.
When contacted by Dot Esports, Stavenow said: “After this season Im quitting besides local events while I am at university. But yes, I will continue to compete for a world title this year.”
Following the May 22 statement, Grimes (along with other members of the Pokémon community) responded to Stavenow with encouragement to learn and grow from this incident. Many also advised him to distance himself from those friends who he had alleged shaved the swastika onto his head in the first place.
This incident comes after the Pokémon Professor was banned for transphobic behavior at the Vancouver Regionals in March. The community continues to urge players and staff alike to educate themselves on these sensitive issues.