Grand Prix Richmond should have been the crown jewel of the 2014 GP Circuit. Instead it will be marred by the bullying and shaming that came in the form of a photo-essay exposing the lack of personal hygiene at one of the largest tournaments ever held. For all the wrong reasons, Magic found itself on the front pages of Reddit, Imgur, Gawker, and even How far has this set back the community’s efforts to be regarded as a safe place for newcomers and how can the damage to the brand and community image be undone?


Sidney Blair posted an album of fifteen pictures [NSFW] on the internet which presented a candid view of a very specific subject matter: “plumber’s butt.” Each subject, anonymous but without providing any consent or acknowledgement, had their exposed butt-crack photographed. Accompanying each picture was Blair, another tournament attendee, who posed next to each bare-skinned rear-end. Once it was shared with the Reddit community [NSFW] it went viral.

Crackgate spread like wildfire, eventually finding its way to some of the more mainstream areas of the internet. After it rose to the top on Reddit and associated social-media image site Imgur, it found its way to Gawker [NSFW]. Finally it made its way to [NSFW]. The numbers on the articles are fairly astounding. The Reddit post received over 100k upvotes (the equivalent of ‘likes’ on Facebook) and the Gawker piece received 1.5k Facebook ‘likes’, over 300 comments, and nearly 100k unique page views. I could not find statistics for the Time post, but it’s pretty obvious that a lot of people outside the normal circles of the internet visit The reach of this story was massive.

But the images damaged the Magic community both externally and internally. To the outside world, this photo essay reinforced negative stereotypes about a community which has long been viewed as a place that is both lacking in hygiene and generally unsafe to both newcomers and women. Inside the community, the discussions around the images exposed a hidden rift. This fissure divides those who defend the pictures as an important step in addressing the hygiene issues and those who view them as a form of bullying and shaming which should be driven out from the community entirely.

Some of the more prominent members of the community rallied against the actions of crackgate, denouncing them as bullying and fat-shaming. Heather Lafferty wrote a very personal perspective from her life experiences as a woman in a society that holds her to unreasonable standards of beauty. She expressed that she would not want any of her flaws exposed in the way that Sidney Blair exposed the flaws of those Grand Prix attendees and reminded us all to be kind to each other.

I don’t know about you, but I am very aware of every flaw I have, and I don’t need help documenting them. Maybe we could just let people be themselves—even if they seem a little odd to you—and be magical for just a little while.
– Heather Lafferty

Next up, Northeast Vintage Series organizer and prominent member of the Vintage community, Nick Detwiler, presented his own personal anecdote about standing up to bullying in high school. He then stood in support of all those bullied by Blair’s actions, and the actions of all bullies in our community, and promised to ensure that it is unacceptable and rooted out of the events that he runs.

It is unbelievably easy to pick on other people, Magic players especially.  I don’t know about you, but when I look around, I don’t see a crowd of jocks, cheerleaders, and other socially celebrated subsets of humanity.  These are the people who know what bullying is like, because they’ve probably experienced some form of it all their lives.
– Nick Detwiler

Finally, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Brian Kibler took to his blog to also defend the position that Blair’s actions constituted bullying and that they are not protected by any interpretation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Want to change the way people dress at Magic tournaments? Be a good example. I’ve made a point since I started playing again to always dress up for tournaments, and you know what? I’ve seen people emulating that. “Be the change you want to see in the world”, as they saying goes – not “Be the asshole who makes fun of other people because they aren’t how you want them to be.”
– Brian Kibler

Inevitably, there were those in the community who responded by showing support for Sidney Blair, making arguments against the idea that his actions constituted bullying, and that instead he should be lauded for exposing a problem of personal hygiene within our ranks. Far too many people from within the Magic community argued that this would be the start of some great revolution whereby Magic players would all start dressing properly, bathing regularly, and otherwise cleaning up their act all for the sake of avoiding this kind of public humiliation in the future.

I was originally going to provide links or quote some of these arguments, but ethically I cannot choose to share them with you. Instead, I encourage you take a quick look at this Yale study on the negative effects of shaming and the positive effects of encouraging overweight and obese people to feel empowered about their health and take control of their lives. Shaming and bullying have been proven time and again to be ineffective ways to evoke change in any community.

Wizards of the Coast made two official statements on the matter. The first was a reminder that Magic tournaments are meant to foster a safe environment, and that there is zero tolerance for discrimination or wrong-doing of any kind. The second statement was to further reinforce this point, and also to inform the community that the offending party had been dealt with by the DCI through official policy. Sidney Blair’s name now appears on the list of banned DCI numbers with an 18-month duration next to it. He will not be able to participate in a Magic tournament until September of 2015.

On a more personal note I just want to remind everyone reading this that there’s nothing wrong with butt-cracks. There’s nothing wrong with giggling at someone’s exposed butt-crack. Nor is there anything wrong with being grossed out by someone’s exposed butt-crack either. What is wrong is shaming people into doing something about their butt-cracks because it offends you in some way. You aren’t helping them. You aren’t helping the community. You aren’t helping yourself.

As Heather Lafferty said, be kind to each other.

Pro Tour Update

Due to technical problems with the Wizards of the Coast website, I am unable to present a recap this week of Grand Prix Buenos Aires and Grand Prix Montreal. Please check, which is hopefully back up by now, for full recaps of all of the exciting Grand Prix action. We’ll be back next week with a full update of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix Circuits and the Top 25 Rankings.

The Quick Hits

  • Evan Erwin presents the making of the Spring States top-eight and champion playmats [StarCityGames]
  • Wizards is hiring, so if you know how to fix Magic Online please, please, click this link [DailyMTG]
  • Mark Nestico writes a piece about a fictional player’s first major tournament experience [StarCityGames]
  • Ever wonder why Jace and Vraska are fighting? Wonder no more… [DailyMTG]
  • Caleb Durward makes the case for unbanning a bunch of cards in Legacy [Legacy Weapon]
  • Nick Vigabool looks at all the different verbs used in Magic to mean destroy [Gathering Magic]
  • Ben Bleiweiss talks about the aftermath of GP Richmond from a logistics perspective [StarCityGames]
  • Mashi Scanlan and Luis Scott-Vargas discuss the top-8 sleeper cards of all time [Magic TV]

Wallpaper of the Week

This week’s wallpaper review was canceled due to technical difficulties with the Wizards of the Coast websites.

The Week Ahead

The Grand Prix circuit returns to Europe next week with a stop in Vienna, Austria for more Theros/Born of the Gods limited action. This will be the sixth Grand Prix hosted in Vienna, including a Standard event last November that players under 18 were banned from by authorities at the last minute. It has been reported that minors will be allowed to play this time if they have written consent from a parent/guardian. Meanwhile, the North American tour travels to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Standard constructed will be the format highlighted. This is Cincinnati’s first Grand Prix, though not the first for the state of Ohio. Columbus has hosted several in the past.

Unfortunately the Wizards’ website outage is making it unable for me to provide links to next week’s coverage, so please stay tuned to for updates.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.