William "Leffen" Hjelte
William "Leffen" Hjelte

Update:

William "Leffen" Hjelte's team, Team SoloMid, has secured a visa that will allow him to compete through the Summer (including EVO) - thanks pvplive. The broader campaign to have all Super Smash Bros. Melee regarded as a legitimate sport will no doubt continue.

Original Article:

The debate around eSports and their legitimacy as 'real' sports is ongoing, though the sheer volume of fans for eSports and the continuing attention the field is earning is seemingly tilting the argument towards a positive conclusion. With the skill levels and professional dedication required to compete at the top of any given eSports field, the arguments for these players to be considered as athletes is gaining steam.

It's still a grey area, however, and now the Smash Bros. community has instigated a petition to the White House in the US to recognise all eSports as legitimate sports, therefore allowing professional to obtain 'P1' Visas. This is in aid of William "Leffen" Hjelte, who is regarded as one of the elite Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world. It makes the following case.

This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William "Leffen" Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a "legitimate" sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered "legitimate" sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.

Citing previous precedent is certainly a persuasive start, and the petition needs a little over 40,000 signatures by the end of May. That would take it to 100,000 in total, which would then trigger an official response from the White House within 60 days. If the petition is successful and leads to action it could, potentially, have a notable impact for a number of eSport professionals.

At the moment the Smash Bros. community is liaising on Reddit, and a #FreeLeffen hashtag is being used on Twitter. The petition certainly has positive momentum.

If you want to sign the petition you can do so at the link below. Do you agree with the petition and do you plan to support it?

[via petitions.whitehouse.gov]