Seven weeks after the sudden benching of 2020 Call of Duty League champion Cuyler ‘Huke’ Garland, Dallas Empire’s Owner Mike ‘hastr0’ Rufail and Head Coach Raymond ‘Rambo Ray’ Lussier have finally explained the decision that sent shockwaves throughout the scene.
When Dallas Empire quietly announced that Huke was no longer in the starting lineup on April 23, it instantly became one of the biggest roster changes in Call of Duty history. Empire won the 2020 trophy and by all accounts, Huke was among the best players in the League.
While the frequent shakeups were shrouded in mystery, Huke finally broke his silence on June 9 with a 30-minute video aptly titled ‘My Story.’
Throughout the lengthy explanation, the CoD star outlined his struggles with Adderall and mood swings that accompanied frequent usage. With the air now cleared from his perspective, Empire has since chimed in to explain that their decision was not at all motivated by these drug-related issues.
“We’re really proud of Cuyler for coming out and making the video that he did,” hastr0 emphasized in a brief video on his personal Twitter account.
“There’s only happiness from our side that he’s actually speaking about these subjects.”
After supporting Huke’s decision to speak up on the controversial topic, he quickly pivoted to outline why the 21-year-old was benched in the first place. In short, “it was always only gameplay related,” hastr0 assured. In no way was their decision based around substance issues, according to the Empire owner.
“Never in our history have we ever influenced a player to make unhealthy decisions, it’s actually the opposite. We’re always pushing our players to make the best decisions possible. We hope that Cuyler’s video influences other players to make healthier decisions.”
Ultimately, the 2020 championship roster simply wasn’t achieving the same success. Before it was too late, Empire stepped in to make a tough decision. “We didn’t feel like we could reach our goals with the roster we had.”
If I ever do a poor job of that, I will quit. I appreciate all of you who have supported my teams and cheered for us to reach our goals.
— Mike Rufail (@hastr0) June 10, 2021
“Our goal every year is to win CoD Champs,” Head Coach Rambo Ray added. “There comes a point in the year when you have a sense of progression. If things are trending to where you want to be, you have a good sense of what’s going on and you really feel like you can achieve that goal. Sadly, this year that wasn’t the case for us.”
Despite sitting at second place in the overall standings at the time Huke was benched, Empire’s staff couldn’t see a clear pathway to the top spot with that iteration of the roster.
“We got to a point where things weren’t progressing, kind of almost regressing from a gameplay standpoint. We felt that changes needed to happen.”
This decision wasn’t made lightly, according to hastr0. Huke was working closely with Empire’s players and staff “for over a month to address gameplay issues,” he said. Ultimately, the team didn’t feel as though the “issues were fixed”.
“I let [Huke] know two weeks in advance that we were considering benching him before we did.”
Now comfortably back on the LA Thieves starting line-up after yet another roster shuffle, Huke will be back in action on June 11 in a series against Minnesota ROKKR.
The former world champ is “excited to be in an environment where [he’s] respected again.”