Harassment in the Magic Community and How Judges Respond

This article is coming in the wake of several high-profile incidents of harassment being broadcast in the Magic Community, and it is both a response to those things and an attempt to give judges an action plan for dealing with problems in their communities. This harassment has been ongoing for quite some time, online and in person, and we are deeply distressed by it. The judge community can and should do better at responding to and preventing harassment.

This letter is both a statement on what the judge community believes about harassment and toxic behavior, and a call to action to work towards improving ourselves and our community.

Judges and players can and should be better
The judge program rejects hate. The judge program rejects harassment. Many judges are positive community influences at their stores and in local spaces. These judges speak out against hate and harassment and act as positive community stewards in their local communities.

However, the judge community as a whole has not always spoken up about harassment, hate, misogyny, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and a myriad of other wrongs in the wider Magic community. We need to be better. Allowing these things to persist in the community we love and help steward is ceding control of the community. It gives that control to those that harass and bully others.

One of our big mottos for judges is: “Everyone makes mistakes. Many people will blame other things for their mistakes. We expect judges to stand up and take ownership of their mistakes.”

The current climate is something we can take ownership of. We have the tools to act against harassers, and we need to make better use of them.

Judges and Harassment at Events
The Magic Tournament Rules (MTR) say the following about harassment:

5.4 Unsporting Conduct
…Unsporting conduct includes, but is not limited to:

• Engaging in behavior that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, bullied, or stalked.

Officials are expected to investigate potential matters brought their attention as soon as possible and take actions to discourage repeat behavior. All incidents of unsporting conduct are subject to further DCI review.

The Judging at Regular REL (JAR) document says the following actions should be taken towards harassment:

Serious Problems
Certain actions will not be tolerated under any circumstances. … Any player engaging in the following must be removed from your event and, at the Organizer’s discretion, removed from the venue entirely:
Aggressive, violent, harassing or abusive behavior (physical or verbal)

The Infraction Procedure Guide (IPG) says the following actions should be taken towards harassment:

Unsporting Conduct — Major
Match Loss
A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked.

Judges and tournament organizers are expected to enforce the MTR at all events, at Regular Rules Enforcement Level use the JAR as a guideline, and at Competitive Rules Enforcement Level use the IPG as the guideline.

These documents make the expectations we have of judges, players, and spectators at events very clear. Don’t harass people. Don’t allow others to harass people. If someone does these things, the minimum that should happen is they are removed from their current match of Magic and get a loss for that match. They can be disqualified, and may be removed from venues or have further action (including suspensions) taken against them.

Judges and Harassment Outside of Events
Outside of events, there are two related standards for judges. We have a standard for reporting (and speaking against) harassment,and we have a standard for judges if they are participating in this harassment. The Magic Judge Code says the following about community involvement (bolding for emphasis):

A judge should create a welcoming environment.
Judges have the same responsibilities as all members of the Magic community to avoid actions which could reasonably be expected to cause someone else to feel harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked. They have additional responsibility to act positively to create environments where these behaviors are not accepted and all members of the Magic community can feel welcome. Judges should not allow others to create a bad environment by inaction. Judges should not express views that would make other members of the Magic community feel unsafe or unwilling to attend an event where that judge was on staff.

What does this mean? We believe that judges have an affirmative duty to denounce harassment in all forms, and to proactively build a better community. Judges should report harassment through appropriate channels, publicly act as a positive role model, encourage others to be better people, and report issues as they arise.

The Magic Judge Code also has this to say about judges taking part in harassment (bolding for emphasis):

Harassment is the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one person or a group, including but not limited to threats, demands, intimidation, and coercion. Harassment, sexual or otherwise, is not acceptable behavior by any judge. Any claim of harassment will be handled with care and respect toward the victim.

What does this mean? The Judge Conduct Committee takes fair and appropriate action against harassers that are brought to their attention. These actions have included temporary suspensions from judging and decertifications in the past. Details of conduct actions are not shared publicly by the Judge Conduct Committee due to privacy concerns for both the accused and the accuser.

Judges and Players Taking Action
We have run through how seriously the judge community views these things, as spelled out in our documents. We would like to give you specific things you can do to combat harassment, as judges and community members.

First, speak up. If you see harassment, you can speak to or about the harasser. Don’t just let things slide. This goes double if you are a judge. Judges have an affirmative duty to speak out against harassment in the Magic community.

Second, report harassers to the people responsible for the space where the harassment occurs. If you see someone harassing another person or group, you can do something as simple as using the “report” function of whatever platform you are on. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and reddit all have reasonable policies about harassment. Reporting these things helps the people who have oversight of that space will let them know things are happening. There are too many forum threads and too many videos for everyone to see everything.

If something comes up at a competitive event, get a judge involved. Head judges of Grand Prix events, Star City Opens, PPTQs, MKM events, World Championship events, Pro Tours, or whatever kinds of competitive events you are at have a strong desire to help you in these circumstances. They can and will take action against harassers, including both penalties and having them removed from the venue.

At local events, if you witness any kind of harassment, speak to the owner of the store or a local judge about the issue. If you feel intimidated by the people involved, contact your Regional Coordinator, who can help you figure out what path to take. If you would like to make an anonymous report, you can use the Magic Judge Feedback Form to make that report directly to the Judge Conduct Committee. If you feel intimidated or uncomfortable talking to your Regional Coordinator or directly to the Judge Conduct Committee, seek out a local judge you trust to help you with the reporting process.

You can also forward information on harassers in the Magic community directly to Wizards of the Coast via investigations@wizards.com. This is most appropriate if the harassment takes place outside of spaces tournament organizers and judges have direct oversight of, such as online forums, local hangouts, or YouTube. That email address handles reports of issues both inside of events and outside of events.

Third, report judges participating in harassment, either via the Magic Judge Feedback Form or to a Regional Coordinator. The Judge Conduct Committee monitors the Feedback Form and will take appropriate action. The Judge Conduct Committee has the power to decertify judges for violations of our Code of Conduct. If an issue is reported to a Regional Coordinator, that Regional Coordinator may send things on to the Judge Conduct Committee or may engage directly with the problem judge to resolve the issue.

Judges and our Future Goals
Judges are just one piece of this problem, and one piece of the solution. We will strive to improve, but we also need help to stop harassment. We have not always prevented harassment. We can’t always prevent it in the future. We won’t give up on trying to prevent it. Where we can’t prevent harassment, we will do our best to remove harassers and speak out to counter their voices. Perfection is not possible, yet we will strive for it.