Update (Jan. 7, 2016): James "Duck" Ma stated on Twitter late in the day on Jan. 6 that "As of now Denial owes me no money and I was very happy being part of the team."
Update (Jan. 6, 2017): James "Duck" Ma has confirmed that the split was due to payment issues. "[Denial Esports] have been very transparent about how they've been trying to pay me back and as of now have already paid the majority of what they owe me," he stated. Original story continues below.
Denial Esports has failed to pay its Super Smash Bros. Melee player James "Duck" Ma two months' worth of salary, industry sources tell ESPN. As a result of the lack of payment, Duck announced that he would be leaving Denial and re-entering the free-agent market on Thursday.
Sad to say that I'll be leaving @DenialEsports, I really enjoyed my time with the team and I'm happy for all the support I've been given
- Duck (@ssbDuck) January 6, 2017
The news comes after Duck spent nearly five months with the organization, having joined the team in August 2016 to become Denial's first Super Smash Bros. player. Prior to entering the Super Smash Bros. space, the team had already had a presence in League of Legends, Halo, Call of Duty, Heroes of the Storm, Smite and more.
Denial Esports has had two other payment disputes with players on its rosters during the past 18 months. In August 2015, the organization reportedly failed to pay its Halo team a collective $3,000 in salary, according to a Dot Esports report. In December 2015, Denial reportedly did not pay its League of Legends team for two months, which contributed to the squad leaving the Denial brand and moving to another organization.
Following the disputes with the Halo team, Denial CEO Robby Ringnalda provided some insight into the organization's stance on the matter of player compensation. He stated that teams should stop paying their players if they are not actively participating in marketing efforts outside of their in-game performances.
"Stop paying players if they stop promoting the brands that make the orgs tick," the TwitLonger statement from September 2015 reads. "If they have a problem then refer to the contract that was written that says they have to work with the org and promote the sponsors. ... Without sponsors this industry would be 1/10th of its size they are VERY IMPORTANT. Every company contract should have a list of deliverables that a player has to follow. It is the org and the players job to make the sponsor happy."
Duck declined to comment on this report. Denial Esports did not respond to a request for comment.