LCS caster Barento ‘ Razleplasm’ Mohammed has become one of League of Legends’ most iconic names. Dexerto caught up with the fan-favorite caster as part of Black History Month to chat about people of color in esports.
Critics often generalize esports as being dominated by white, straight males of a particular image. While the games themselves often feature vast array of characters from all different backgrounds, many argue that we only see the same types of faces both on broadcast and in the player position.
To help shed some light on this issue, Dexerto caught up with LCS caster and League of Legends icon Razleplasm to discuss his experience as a person of color in LoL esports.
The rise of a Legend
In discovering his passion for League of Legends, Raz’s story is pretty similar to every LoL fan out there.
“It started out with me just playing the game with friends. Naturally [I] was watching streams trying to figure out how to get better, and then I just started enjoying watching the game competitively. I started with watching North American play, then I started watching European play, wandered myself over to Chinese League of Legends… This turned into me being on a podcast called China Talk so it just spiraled from there.”
Raz has done it all. From humble origins as a writer, he went on to coach some of the biggest names in LoL as well, including Dignitas Europe. His meteoric rise is still a whirlwind to him, though, as he recalls that: “it always just spiraled. I thought it was going to just be a one-time thing just to gain experiences.”
From here came the opportunity to cast, which is clearly his true love. “The idea of entertainment plus teaching, that’s something that I really enjoy. I have a lot of fun with casting and being able to tell a story. It’s mostly so that people can know where these players came from, especially rookie players.”
Not only has Raz told other people’s stories, however, he’s etched his own into the esports history books.
Raz’s experience as a person of color
From behind the scenes to center stage, Raz is one of the few people of color to feature on LoL broadcasts across the world.
He notes that in the professional sphere, his background “has not been an issue whatsoever. The people I’ve worked with in my times in coaching and my times in commentary have always made me feel incredibly respected. I’ve always enjoyed that about that aspect.”
“With fans, especially with anonymity on the internet, people can say what they want whether they actually believe it or not. So that aspect is difficult. You’ll always get racist messages, it happens, and the amount that you receive really depends person to person. It really just depends on how active I am in terms of being on broadcast – if it’s a large event where there’s more audiences and more eyes and all that then yeah, my DMs are there.”
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“For me, I know that I receive a decent amount, but I always say that I have a thick skin with it and the way I do it is, if that if that’s the first thing they reach to, I should be happy because that means they have no ammo. I know that I am myself a strong person. Growing up I’ve learned to not let it control my emotions because that’s their intent.”
One of the main places that Raz remembers experiencing racism growing up as a gamer was in the voice chat. “I remember playing SOCOM growing up and I was playing on the Southern server hilariously enough. I would speak and they knew I was black and I was like ‘wow, really!?’ I was impressed but then obviously the racism came in!”
“So for me, growing up you’d get a lot of that and I had a lot of internal searching of like, they’re trying to get a rise out of me, they’re trying to impact my day and how I feel about myself. If you ever let that impact you visibly, in terms of throwing an insult, then they’ve already won.”
Representation in LoL esports
Of late, however, League of Legends’ esports scene has come under fire for its lack of representation within its broadcast teams.
Stating that “I think the current LCS broadcast is very diverse. I don’t really see it as an issue at the time,” he clarifies that “I do think there just needs to be more people at the table. I definitely noticed that when I was in LPL.”
Referring to the period after Indiana ‘Froskurinn’ Black left the broadcast, he notes that “it is really difficult finding a women candidate, or any minority, and I think it comes down to the game we’re playing. It has a deeper issue involved and it’s a pretty hefty conversation, but I think the best way to bring up that type of community is by just making it so esports is a lot friendlier.”
“I can do my part by making the community more open and friendly for anyone that wants to find enjoyment in it, but in terms of competitive I think amateur events do a lot of good work as well.”
“The first step is loving what you do”
When it comes to dealing with all of this, Raz reminds us all of one thing: passion.
“The first step is loving what you do because no matter what people fling at you that’s not going to harm you. It’s a tough shield. No one’s going to get you out of a position you really love doing if you fight for it.”
“Most importantly: value the positives far more. There’s going to be a lot of love coming your way, either in the form of good friends around you, or your peers, or even just fans. I value the positivity I get from the community far more, and I blast that message whenever I can so that people outside know what the community’s really about and you can change the conversation.”
Raz is more than just a coach and just a caster. He’s an inspiration for young people of color everywhere. Reminding us all to “do what you love” and never stop fighting, there’s a reason he’s accumulated such a loyal fanbase. He beautifully epitomizes everything that young people of color with an interest in esports aspire to be.
So thank you, Raz, for being a figure that future generations will look up to. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next, but hopefully, it involves that cheetah shirt.