Pokémon champ to continue despite antisemitism backlash

Despite facing backlash over an offensive 'joke' involving anti-Semitism, the Pokémon champion remains determined to continue competing in 2023.

Over the weekend, a significant Pokémon tournament took place in Hartford, Connecticut, resulting in the crowning of new champions in various divisions, including TCG, Scarlet, and Violet VGC, and Pokémon Go, across different age groups. However, the joyous atmosphere quickly dissipated.

Following Rowan Stavenow's victory as the TCG champion at the 2023 Hartford Regionals, he faced allegations of engaging in anti-Semitic behavior based on a video circulating within the community. Despite stating his intention to compete for the world title this year and subsequently shifting his focus to university and local events next season, the Pokémon card game community has remained in a state of outrage.


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The video revealed that Stavenow had his head shaved with a swastika symbol, which, during the Holocaust, became an emblem associated with the Nazi party. Players within the community expressed their alarm and anger regarding the incident, expressing their concerns through various social media platforms on May 22nd.

Josh Frink, a Jewish player, and professional TCG player, expressed his unease about attending Pokémon events such as the one in Hartford. Frink stated that he does not feel secure due to an individual with a swastika shaved into his head being present. He believes that being near such a person could potentially put him at risk of harm or even death.

Numerous members of the community were deeply affected and let down by the revelations surrounding Stavenow's association with the swastika video. This incident serves as another example of the TCG community becoming increasingly unsafe and unwelcoming for individuals from diverse backgrounds.

After the statement on May 22, Grimes and various other individuals from the Pokémon community offered support and urged Stavenow to use this incident as an opportunity for personal growth and learning. Additionally, many advised him to separate himself from the friends he claimed were responsible for shaving the swastika onto his head.

This occurrence follows the banning of a Pokémon Professor in March at the Vancouver Regionals due to transphobic conduct. The community persists in urging both players and staff to educate themselves on these delicate matters.