Recent allegations Ryan Kopf, who runs "Chrono, LC" (the company behind the conventions Anime Zap, QC Anime-zing!, Anime-SPARK!, AniMinneapolis, Meta Con, Domo Con, and Anime Midwest), committed rape during a convention he was running this May have led some to demand a boycott of his events.
I talked about this the other day in my blog, and the police report that has surfaced is both a genuine document and a disturbing read. The part that most convinced me was the detailed list of photographed injuries on the third page. When you combine that with at least one exgirlfriend of Mr. Kopf coming forward saying that he was abusive during their relationship as well, it paints a fairly damning picture.
So while Mr. Kopf has been convicted of no crime, it sure does seem like he's a guy worth avoiding. Avoiding events he runs seems like the right thing to do as well.
Here's the thing though - I had already decided long before this I'd never go to a Ryan Kopf run event.
My first exposure to Ryan Kopf was in late 2010/early 2011 when I first heard about Animinneapolis. When I asked around if anyone had heard about it, I got messages "warning" me about Ryan. These are people I've worked with for years and trust implicitly - and the first thing they wanted to do was warn me that Kopf was a bad guy. One report involved a Voice Actor writing a Con to specifically complain about Mr. Kopf, while others were complaints about nickel and diming his attendees.
You see, Ryan Kopf's conventions are run as a for profit enterprise. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, a lot of for profits like to cut corners where they can. It's true that some don't, but from what I've been told, Kopf is no exception to that rule. That may be okay for some, it means it's not the experience I want to have after I travel hours to an event.
I've only met Ryan once in person, and it was for a few minutes. It wasn't enough to decide if I liked him or not, but it was enough for me to be unimpressed with the man. He builds inauthentic, cardboard cut outs of experiences.
And that cavalier and irresponsible attitude was confirmed by a piece of information I discovered the other night: Ryan Kopf's conventions have staff members as young as fourteen.
Now, I'm not familiar enough with labor law, and volunteering with "for profit" entities has always seemed sketchy to me, but there's a larger problem here. Having minors police and manage your event put both them and your attendees in danger. It's irresponsible and a liability no well run event should have. And while some events allow volunteers as young as sixteen and seventeen, fourteen is far too young.
So, in the end, Ryan Kopf may not only be a dangerous person to be around, but his events may be unsafe as well.
And that's why I won't be attending any.
I'd gone back and forth about writing this particular post. I mean, I write a comic about conventions (whose readership is largely convention workers), and I co-founded Wisconsin's longest running Anime Convention. I want to be clear though that I only write this as myself, and my opinions are not necessarily indicative of those of No Brand Con Inc. or any allied events. I felt strongly enough though that I didn't feel comfortable staying quiet.
I do hope that you know that the report you speak of has already been proven as a false report. As well as anyone with an education can see the faults in said report. To point out afew of them, name of accuser on first page is Tom, pages are out of order for what a true report would be, as well not to mentiont he folding in the page does not match the sentances typed out. Nor is the case number real, Ithink some people need to do more researching before pointing fingers.
I love how 'nerdee' completely avoids the bulk of this blog post, the parts involving alleged child labor violations, to rise up and white knight Kopf. Considering that my current girlfriend was recognized at Detour by someone who had gone to Meta last year as 'the girl who was screaming "no no no!" As she was dragged onto Ryan's hotel room.' And knowing a number of the other people who are to this point withholding pursuing charges, I'm quite inclined to believe it, myself. Not to mention the slew of other charges pending against him at the moment.
Go ahead and stay blind, Nerdee, the rest of us will watch and laugh.
The child labor issue differs state to state. So depending on which event of his we're talking about, he could be in a world of legal trouble.
As for nerdee, and anyone else thats curious, thanks to the freedom of information act anyone can call up the davenport pd and confirm for themselves that the report is legititimate (and it is). All you need is the report number and his name; you can even request your own hardcopy.
I wonder if any of you would actually go up to one of these fourteen year old volunteers, and say it to their face, that they are too incompetent to do whatever brainless volunteer work work they are doing (which nine times out of ten is usually checking badges, or something equally easy, I mean, it's not like they're going to be mowing lawns or taking care of elderly people, that stuffs only for the big kids.) Anyway, i'd like to see someone tell ones of these kids right to their face that the fact that they are volunteering, is making the con unsafe, and that there very presence poses an existential threat to everyone present.
Why would I approach the fourteen year old instead of the volunteer coordinator who is responsible for doing it in the first place? The fourteen year old didn't set the policy.
And what do you do if a belligerent hotel guest tries to force their way past a fourteen year old badge checker? What if that fourteen year old is injured by a drunken attendee? There are liabilities here - both legal and moral - which are mindblowing you seem to be ignoring.
I've had to tell plenty of teenagers they were too young to volunteer for my con. When it's my event, I never have a problem doing that.
It's not the 14 year old's fault, so no one would tell the kid they're the problem.
But seriously, have you ever met a 16 year old who is going to listen to a 14 year old trying to make them adhere to rules? No. Frankly, I doubt that anyone else would either. Like Trae said - Why would you -want- a 14 year old in a position where if someone gets belligerent, or drunk, and decides not to listen to them, this 14 year old who thinks they are going to be respected the same as any member of the staff might try and stand up to them, only to be injured in the process?
It's not that they're incompitant - it's that they're 14. Everyone went through school and had those moments where they saw people in lower grades and felt important because they were a senior, or hell, even a fifth/sixth grader, looking at anyone in k-4. It's a matter of feeling you don't need to listen to someone younger than you, even if you really should. Some people are assholes - and no one should be put at risk when they are too young to really understand what they are getting into.
I've been to more than fifty cons over the course of 10 years, and I've never heard of a badge checker being injured in the line of duty. It simply doesn't happen. If an attendee ever does get belligerent with a volunteer, that volunteer would contact their department head of a member of security staff. They would be in far more danger mowing the lawn.
I would personally feel safer at a con where the staff are at least 17 or 18. It's about knowing when to assert authority, and when to back down and alert your superiors of the situation, be they department heads or security. The only way to know the difference is to have life experience, something a 14-year-old would still be struggling to come to terms with. Unless said 14-year-olds are in a department where they have absolutely no potential of having to deal with or answer to drunks, perverts, or other such pond-scum, then this is a disaster in the making, and someone-- be they staff or con-goer-- is going to get hurt or worse. Just a matter of time.
You know, if I was at a con and I saw and found the volunteer was minor especially at 14. I'd probably go ask the staff and tell them I don't think it's a good idea. And maybe ask them to take her off the volunteer schedule only because any kind of work activity with minors could have potential to go wrong. And maybe the inner catholic in me might offer some cash to pay her/his way into the con so she/he doesn't feel too discouraged. And actually maybe even ask the con staff to credit some of the volunteer time out of the cost.
And even if she gets a little upset that would be why I'd offer to pay some of the way in so she could enjoy the con. And I think some other people in the con would feel the same (regardless of their religious or lack of affiliation).
You gotta be careful with these churches. I know of this one church that actually has a you volunteer team, they send these kids to do all sorts of dangerous things, like taking care of alzheimers patients, mowing the grass, even setting up the big tent at the church picnic. I don't know how they keep from being charged with violating labor laws.
Remarkable, Anon. Rather than debating an actual point, you go right for the comment that was an example rather than the topic itself, and shoot for sarcasm instead of valid counterpoints. Clearly, you are absolutely correct, and satire proves your point beyond reproach.
The fact of it is this: 14 is too young for certain jobs - namely ones that involve a reasonable level of judgement based on experience that cannot be attained in 14 short years.
I am not saying that 14 year olds are -incapable- of good judgment, but I am saying that someone older, with more life experience would be better suited to such a thing, would be less prone to hormonal mood swings associated with going through puberty, and frankly? Those around them would be more likely to respect, listen to, and behave around someone who is not a 14 year old.
So. If you want to argue on that, why not drop the mockery and go for civility and fact?
When I was doing volunteer work at cons, back during the stone age, they never had me dealing with drunks, or high voltage equipment, or managerial judgement calls. They always have older and more experienced people to handle that stuff, but back before America became the impoverished third world cesspit it is today, it was hard to find good experienced volunteers, because a lot of people who world for a living don't like going around and doing even more work during their vacation. Thats why they always had young folk to help with the simple menial jobs, wherein the worst thing they might have to deal with is a drunk person trying to enter a room without a badge, in which case the volunteer would have to contact a department head to deal with it. I guess it was just a whole different era back then.
How exactly is a volunteer supposed to be able to get a senior staff member when they're cornered by a drunk attendee?
My god, these aren't common situations - but they're possible ones. And responsible convention management thinks about this stuff. You wear a seatbelt even though you don't get into an accident every time you drive.
Likewise, in my fairly lengthy history of running cons (13 years of my own event - and I've been volunteering longer), I've never had a problem finding an adequate number of 18+ staff and volunteers to fill my rosters. Frankly, if you can't, then there's likely something else wrong with your organization that's driving them off.
Nowadays, there are so many people signing up so they can get their badges comped thats it's hard to find enough work for everyone at some cons. Back in the day, things were a lot different. And if the con commitee was so paranoid about having one of their volunteers in the proximity of an inebriated attendee, they could assign kids to help with things like registration, setting up the con suite, courier work, etc.
If a con ever does have a shortage of volunteers, then they should take what they can get, because it's better to have to resort to havings kid's help out in exchange for free badges than it is for the con to be understaffed. And if it does not run afoul of state and local law, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Traegorn... It's people like you that make me slightly alright with this having gotten out all over the Internet. It never should have been, but what is done is done. This whole situation has shown me who my real friends are, who my enemies are, and who the people who are using this for their own gain are. Though all of my crew mates (of the Airship O'Reilly, a guest of Ryan's cons, of which I am part) were nearly fired for associating with me... The trouble with being everyone's scapegoat and target since most of them don't know the victim, I have been getting blamed by Ryan for all of his troubles, as if I had something to do with it all being spread over the Internet. Know anyone who'd hire a ragtag crew of airship pirates to run steampunk panels and events at a con? I'd love to free them from his tyranny... But anyway, thank you for being a decent human being. I haven't been seeing enough lately.
Firekeeper: Try contacting the folk who run ICON. It is one of the oldest running sci-fi conventions in the state of Iowa and has been running since 1973 or '74. You should be able to find them at http://www.iowa-icon.com/
Volunteering for a for profit convention is illegal. You MUST be paid for the work you do for a for profit corporation, this includes conventions. Also, it is illegal to go against child labor laws, the for profit corporation must not have the child in a position where they are knowingly placed in harms way. meaning Operations, Security, tech, preparing food for CONsuite, amine other things.
That's not exactly true. Volunteering for a for-profit corporation is a gray area with the department of labor. The legality is complex, and a lot of it is being decided right now (especially with unpaid internships). To say it's outright illegal though is highly inaccurate.
I've volunteered at several different cons. When I went to work my first animeminne I was so unimpressed with how disorganized it was. I also believe they ran out of badges. How does that happen? Beyond that, I got a really cold response when i showed up to volunteer. Con goers were extremely appreciative that I actually cared....it was so weird.
I've seen plenty of cons run out of badges -- it happens when they get unexpected growth (or if they're new).
The important thing is how they adapt to it (My con ran out of badges once -- and we had an emergency print run done within the hour and at the con from the printers... of course, we also tracked that we were running low, and were making phone calls to fix it prior to actually running out...)
I have mixed feelings concerning Ryan's cons. I have staffed for Ryan three years running, starting when I was 16 and Animinnie was basically in a closet. I met some extremely kind and charismatic people-- friends who eventually became some of my favorite people irl. However, when accusations started flying, many of my friends quit in a rage, while others still flocked to Ryan's defense. In the end, it left me very confused and unsure of what to believe. I am still unsure of whether or not I will attend the convention, but I don't think I will staff it regardless.
As someone who has attended and staffed anime conventions throughout the midwest, I find that the conventions run by anime-con.org are no more or less unprofessional as any other. I have met Ryan Kopf. He is selfish and does not always handle stress well, and he does sometimes participate in favoritism. But he's fairly harmless, and I've seen the exact same qualities in executives for almost every convention I've been to. I don't think that it is wrong to boycott an event because you are against what it stands for, but the truth is, most people are boycotting these events based off of opinion and poorly-informed blog posts like this one, mostly fueled by a smear campaign. The child labor portion of the article is true, but exaggerated. There were some teenagers under the age of 16 who were there. Their mother pleaded that they could be on staff, so they could get free/cheap badges. They did minimal work. There are other accounts, as well, but the official policy has since been changed and enforced.
1. What cons have you worked? Staff or volunteer? If you're going to claim that all cons are run at the same professional/unprofessional level as Kopf's, I'm going to have to either call bullshit or see some examples of cons you've staffed.
2. Any staffers that young are unacceptable in my book, and considering that at least one has proudly proclaimed themself staff between cons, I have a hard time buying your "mother pleaded" story. I've exaggerated nothing.
3. Tell me one thing that is factually incorrect in my post? Because the words "ill informed" are rather strong. I verified all of my claims, and have a folder of data to back it up. Maybe you should read my follow up post if you want more information.
4. There is no smear campaign. There is outrage, there are a lot of people talking about him, but there is no organized effort -- or at least none that I'm a part of. Hence why I only use primary sources. There are a lot of stories out there, but I only talk about the ones I can prove.
I guess to finish, you can't just change reality by walking in and saying "none of this is true." My words don't become ill informed just because you said so. Nor do the legions of staffers I've known over the last twenty years become as unprofessional as Kopf because it fits your narrative better.
Always found Ryan to be sketchy every since I found out that he was caught doing up the skirt photos at Geek.kon when they were back at the Sheraton. I unfortunately I have had my fair share of encounters with Ryan and he came off quite creepy as well as very egotistical. Let's just say my time on the con circuit I did my best to avoid him.
I have worked for Ryan Koph for a while now at his conventions, never have I seen a 14 year old volunteer at his conventions. You have to be at least 16 years of age. And even the 16 year olds are not doing anything extreme, most are either behind the registration desk, or checking badges. I've never seen an attendee get violent toward a badge checker. If such a thing were to happen, that is what our security team is for, we always have someone from security close by most areas of the hotels and convention centers. And you at least have to be 18+ to be apart of security.
If I remember correctly, their current head of security was under 18 when he became head of the department.
I agree, the staffing is an issue as well. Far too much inexperience and not enough mentorship. The cons themselves are bland and devoid of content. I feel sorry for those whose first con is from Chrono. They have no idea that it's a ball pit away from DashCon with how disorganised it is.
As for Koph himself, eh, I have luke warm feelings. I don't appreciate that he 'accidentally' and habitually schedules his cons over smaller and or non profit cons, regardless of content. This year he went over Brit Con with AniMinne, and going a week away from Fusion for Meta Con. They're not related for either case, so i don't think it'd do anything.
As the former head of security for a kopf con I can honestly say I have seen more than 10 volunteers under the age of 16, the youngest being 12. Ryan has zero regard for his own rules, treats his staff poorly, and I personally have had to pull him out of hotel rooms because he was under the influence and flirting with minors. He is the last person that should ever run a convention.
FYI : Ryan Kopf is part of another group trying to start some con. One in Nashville and one in Atlanta, The group is being called Black Materia http://blackmateria.org/ if you don't believe me look at the whois on Black Materia http://www.whois.net/whois/blackmateria.org
Thank you this post. I was not aware of Ryan Kopf, or Black Materia Inc which holds an event in Roanoke VA called "Star City Anime". It is the worst show I've ever been to and I have heard from various vendors that I personally know that their operation is corrupt and illegal. Read this article for your self: http://www.nerdandtie.com/2014/08/18/do-some-of-ryan-kopfs-conventions-break-the-law-quite-possibly/