Just days after winning the first-ever Call of Duty League Championship, the Dallas Empire are dropping veteran James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks ahead of the CDL’s switch to a 4v4 format for Black Ops Cold War.
Clayster’s Dallas Empire dominated Atlanta FaZe 5-1 in the CDL Championship Weekend Grand Final on Sunday, August 30, on their way to being crowned champions of the league’s inaugural season.
Just a day later, the CDL announced that the official competitive format would be reverted to 4v4 for the 2021 season and possibly beyond, which meant that one from the Empire’s title-winning roster would have to be demoted.
After reports of Clayster’s demotion began to surface, the three-time World Champion announced that he is, indeed, the odd man out, declaring himself a restricted free agent ahead of the 2021 season.
“Empire decided to move with the other four for next year, and I genuinely hold nothing against the org or the players,” he tweeted. “Only can blame myself for not doing more to secure my spot and the league for making this decision. Pretty heartbroken with how things turned out.”
“Don’t want to blow up Twitter, but man this is heart-wrenching for me,” he continued. “Spent all night sobbing and chain-smoking cigarettes. Feels super sh**ty to give it my all, to accomplish something, obtain that goal, then get put back into the mix like it was all for nothing. Just want security, man.”
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Following the announcement, Team Envy and Dallas Empire owner Mark ‘Hastr0’ Rufail made it clear that the decision stemmed solely from the switch to 4v4, and that Clayster would be signed to a long-term deal if that wasn’t the case.
Clayster expressed similar sentiments when speaking in Empire’s post-Champs press conference on September 1, calling the format switch “heartbreaking” for whoever doesn’t make the cut.
“Nobody on this team deserves to be dropped,” he said. “We all worked so hard this year, we all put in equal contributions all year round. It’s going to be heartbreaking for whoever it is. I almost even want to be the one to go, just so them four can play together.”
It’s not clear whether or not he had been told of the decision prior to addressing the media.
What’s next for Clayster?
In order to properly speculate on Clay’s future, we first have to look at what restricted free agency means. In essence, he is free to sign with any organization that offers him a contract, but if the Empire choose to do so, they can match that offer and retain him on their roster as a substitute.
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That said, it’s highly unlikely that the organization will do that, not only because they’ve officially announced the roster change, but also because it would go against the player’s best interests if he does indeed get an opportunity to start for another franchise.
For Clayster, this seems to be a case of history repeating itself, as the three-time World Champion found himself in a similar situation following his 2019 triumphs with eUnited.
Franchising went into effect almost immediately after eUnited won CoD Champs in 2019 and their roster was split apart, with the five players going to four different teams for the 2020 season.
Eubanks managed to overcome that challenge with the Empire, assembling a powerful squad that was the last one standing after the 2020 campaign was all said and done, but now he’ll have to do that again if he’s to contend for a third-straight world championship.