SCG Regionals Wrap-Up: Part Two

Hello friends, and welcome to the thrilling conclusion of my extended discussion of SCG Regionals. If you’re just joining us, make sure to read my initial post about Regionals, as well as the first part of my wrap-up.

With those preliminaries out of the way, let’s get right down to business talking about the remaining scenarios!

Scenario 5: Throughout the event, the TO has been distributing foil tokens (a pre-registration reward) at his booth. At the end of the event, the TO tells you that one of his staff members noticed a certain player probably went up to the booth three or four times to receive a token. What do you do?

This situation is more complex than it may first appear.

On the surface level, we have the usual question when handling a judge call: what infraction is this, if any? The Infraction Procedure Guide spells out only one infraction that relates to theft: Unsporting Conduct – Theft of Tournament Materials (ToTM), which is succinctly defined as “A player steals material from the event, such as cards or tournament equipment.” It’s clear that ToTM includes other players’ cards, as well as some materials that belong to the TO (such as table numbers). However, the infraction also elaborates that “other instances of theft not involving tournament materials are the responsibility of the Tournament Organizer, though judges are encouraged to help in any way possible.”

So are promotional items a tournament material or not? Ultimately, I did not believe this rose to that level. I came to this judgment because, philosophically, ToTM focuses on items that are physically necessary for the tournament to continue, and pre-registration rewards don’t meet this criterion. However, since the TO had asked me to get involved, I nonetheless approached and spoke with the player.

When speaking to the player, I took an investigative approach that I rarely have a good opportunity to deploy: being extremely blunt, yet honest. The start of our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hey, guys, how’re you doing?”
Player 1: “Eh, a little tired, actually.”
Me: “Yeah, me too. Actually, I just disqualified someone 15 minutes ago, and I really don’t feel like filling out more paperwork. So I’ll be level with you guys if you’ll be level with me. I heard you went up to the TO’s booth and said you hadn’t gotten your pre-registration token…several times. Is this true?”
Player 2: “…yeah.”
Me: “OK. Can I have them back?”

I like this approach because it doesn’t beat around the bush, but also conveys some degree of mutual respect (via “I’ll be level with you guys if you’ll be level with me”). It worked well in this situation because I already know basically everything there was to know about the situation, and it swiftly moved us into a place where we could work on resolving things instead of gathering information.

As it turns out, the player had already traded away his illegitimately acquired tokens. Although his friend offered to give me some extras that he had traded for himself, I told him I didn’t think it was fair to punish the second player for the actions of the first. I left the conversation by telling the player that what he had done was wrong, and not to do it again. The TO was also happy with this resolution.

Afterwards, I discussed this scenario with a number of other judges, and of course you all through this blog. Judges whose opinions I greatly respect both agreed and disagreed with my ruling. Some said they would have disqualified the player for Theft of Tournament Materials, whereas others felt this was indeed theft (with a little “t”) but not ToTM. A few judges did not believe this was even theft at all!

Ultimately, Andy Heckt confirmed that this is a TO issue, and as such doesn’t fall under ToTM. So this player won’t be heading to Dairy Queen nor a DCI investigation. Of course, the TO can still punish or discourage this behavior in the way they feel most appropriate, and we should support them in any way possible.

To steal some phrasing from Niko Skartvedt, we judges are custodians of both the rules and the tournament experience. Even if the rules say this isn’t a disqualifiable offense, it goes against the (American) sense of ethics, and this act is certainly one with negative consequences for the other players. We should make sure to keep this in mind when advising the TO in how to proceed.

Scenario 6: On the Monday after the event, you’re playing Standard at your local shop. A friend of yours tells you he also went up to the booth to take several tokens. What do you do now?

As discussed above, this isn’t Theft of Tournament Materials, so fortunately we get to avoid the awkward situation of retroactively disqualifying a friend.

At the time, I made some remark about how this wasn’t cool, but I think I could have done a better job of explaining my point of view.

Scenario 7: On Saturday, a few people tell you that men have been using the women’s bathroom. What do you do?

This was a tricky situation. I considered making an announcement reminding players to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Using respectful, inclusive language in this type of situation is incredibly important, as it’s certainly possible that the “men” using the women’s bathroom actually do identify as women, regardless of their appearance.

Ultimately, however, I chose not to make any announcement about the situation at all. While I don’t usually advocate this passive approach to conflict resolution, I feared my announcement would actually have the opposite of its intended effect, by making players realize other male-identifying players had been using the women’s bathroom without repercussions.

That being said, on further reflection, I think I could have picked a wording for my announcement that would have achieved my goal of dissuading male players from using the women’s rooms. In particular, I like Aric‘s suggestion of emphasizing that this behavior is making female players uncomfortable, rather than simply reprimanding players. This reinforces the idea that we’re ultimately all one community, and we should treat each other with respect.

When discussing this situation on my blog and elsewhere, a few people suggested re-labeling the women’s bathroom to unisex (in consultation with the TO and venue staff). Although this approach has practical appeal, I personally don’t like the message it sends. On the other hand, I recognize that I have only limited perspective to make this judgment in the first place. Finally, I believe this decision primarily falls into the TO’s jurisdiction anyway. This means my role as head judge shifts from an executive capacity and into an advisory function. In this case, I don’t believe I ever discussed the issue with the TO, so I don’t know what his thoughts were.

In the future, I hope to identify and deal with these venue-related issues pre-emptively, rather than handle them reactively. As I said last week, a very simple way of doing this is simply putting yourself in the players’ shoes. Walk through the play area. Sit down at a few tables, and see if two playmats fit. Check the bathrooms (number, size). Look up whether there’s restaurants nearby.

While some of these issues may be innate to the venue or otherwise intractable, being aware of them will nonetheless be a great advantage. After the event, you can share your experiences and thoughts with the TO as well, and work to remedy these issues for future events.

Scenario 8: On Sunday (when you’re serving as a team lead), a female spectator finds you and tells you that a guy is currently using the women’s bathroom. How do you proceed?

In contrast to my passive approach in the above situation, I chose a direct method for this situation, and waited for the guy in question to emerge from the women’s restroom so I could speak with him.

In the context of the different conflict management styles I alluded to earlier, this is the confrontational approach, which SeaCat succinctly describes as “when the moment requires an authority figure, and you’re it.” It was clear that this situation met that criterion. Moreover, I’m much more confident that I can change someone’s mind about a sensitive topic when I’m speaking to them one-on-one, rather than making announcements to the crowd as a bodiless authority figure.

Going into the situation, I had two considerations foremost in my mind. First, I wanted to be sensitive in case the player in question identified as female, in which case there wasn’t a problem at all. Second, I knew that, if the player identified as male, I would be issuing him an Unsporting Conduct – Minor penalty. Given that the player’s actions directly impacted another player’s experience and comfort level, I think it’s pretty clear that USC-Minor applies here.

However, I didn’t want to start the conversation with either a hostile question about gender identity nor a penalty. As I explained in Part One, my initial approach when handling these situations is to try to establish some kind of rapport with the player, and then lead into any penalties.

As it turns out, the player in question was named Josh. I brought up the concept of gender identity early in the conversation, which drew a blank look from Josh. This allowed me to proceed knowing that the situation was indeed as it had been initially described: a male-identifying player using the women’s bathroom.

Although I don’t recall many specifics of the conversation, I do remember that, as in the scenario with the tokens, I took a fairly conversational tone to start things off — which was especially important given that people aren’t really used to being spoken to right as they’re leaving the restroom. “Conversational” doesn’t mean “soft,” however: once I explained that what Josh had done was Unsporting Conduct – Minor, I was very firm when he pressed back and tried to convince me that what he’d done wasn’t a big deal.

Second, I considered the possibility that the “guy” using the “wrong” restroom could, in fact, be trans. Although I don’t recall the exact phrasing, I did bring up the concept of gender identity early in the conversation. This drew a blank look from Josh. Even so, it’s important to remember that the Magic community is very diverse, and appearances aren’t always what they seem.

Ultimately, it turned out that Josh actually was just a spectator today. While we judges are empowered to give Unsporting Conduct penalties to people who aren’t enrolled in the event, I ultimately did not do so here. This wasn’t because I was feeling lenient, but rather because, at the time, I mistakenly thought that only USC-Major and the various Disqualification infractions carried the provision allowing us to issue them to people not enrolled in the tournament. But, in fact, this applies to each Unsporting Conduct infraction.

As an interesting coda to the situation, Josh eventually found my blog and posted a comment. I feel that it’s rare that we get to interact with players after issuing them a penalty, so it was very rewarding to read Josh’s acknowledgment of the situation and that what he did wasn’t appropriate.

(For what it’s worth, Josh: you have several good points about the restrooms at the venue, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve definitely gained a new appreciation for these issues myself. Thanks for helping me understand your perspective!)

Two last points on this. First, as I was waiting for Josh, I sent a Facebook message to the two head judges to let them know what was going on. As it happens, they didn’t get the message until after I’d finished my conversation with Josh, but I still think it was a good idea to attempt to give them a head’s up.

Second, although I already mentioned this above, I want to emphasize it again: I knew there was a possibility that the “guy” using the “wrong” restroom could, in fact, be trans. It’s important to remember that the Magic community is very diverse, and appearances aren’t always what they seem.

And that’s a wrap!

As you can see, SCG Regionals was an extremely busy tournament. I’m grateful to everyone who commented and contributed to the discussion about these scenarios. I learned a great deal from this event, and I hope you did too.

See you next week!

2 thoughts on “SCG Regionals Wrap-Up: Part Two

  1. When talking about Josh using the women’s restroom, you state that you “knew that I would be issuing Josh a Warning for Unsporting Conduct – Minor,” going into this investigation. Suppose that, when you brought up the topic of gender identity, Josh had replied, “Yes, I’m trans. I always use that restroom.” How would you have proceeded (given that this is accurate)?

    1. I wouldn’t have given the penalty, of course. I probably should have added “assuming that Josh identified as male” to that sentence to be extra explicit — in fact, I will make that edit now. Thank you for your question!

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