Ray Lalonde, who won $386,400 over 13 games last season on the iconic game show, qualifying for the series' yearly "Tournament of Champions," has stated publicly that he will not participate in any tournament that is produced during the strike.
"I believe that the show's writers are a vital part of the show and they are justified in taking their job action to secure a fair contract for themselves and their fellow WGA members," Lalonde wrote on Reddit and Facebook. "I will not cross a picket line to play in the tournament of champions."
Lalonde also emailed his intentions to "Jeopardy!" producers, although he told USA TODAY in a phone interview Tuesday that he has yet to hear back.
The Reddit and Facebook posts quickly received support from other "Jeopardy!" champions, including 21-time winner Cris Pannullo, eight-time winner Hannah Wilson, six-time winner Troy Meyer and nine-time winner Ben Chan.
“Ray really stuck his neck out there by being the first one,” Wilson, who won $229,801 over eight episodes this spring, told the Washington Post. “I don’t want to be in a scab tournament."
Lalonde first began thinking about refusing a tournament invite when he saw reports on social media that "Jeopardy!" may resume filming without its striking writers. "My immediate reaction was if they’re going to do that, I can’t be a part of that," he says. After emailing his "Jeopardy!" contacts he decided also to post his intentions publicly. "I thought other people might be struggling with the same thing and maybe I could have other people sign on."
"Jeopardy!" writers, responsible for the clues that hosts Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik read out in each episode, are members of the WGA and have been on strike since May along with the rest of their union. The game show completed its 39th season with clues the writers completed before the strike began. However, Bialik (a member of actors union SAG-AFTRA, now also on strike) stepped away from hosting in solidarity with the WGA, with Jennings stepping in as full time host. "Jeopardy!" is due to start filming a new season soon, including special events like the "Tournament of Champions."
No end is in sight for the WGA's strike, nor for the recently called SAG-AFTRA strike. The sides are far apart on the details of the contract, and no new talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, have been scheduled. The double strike, the first in Hollywood since 1960, has virtually ceased all scripted film and TV production in the United States and in many places around the world.
"They’re trying to bargain in good faith and it seems like the (studios) are more or less trying to break them instead of continuing negotiations. They’re just saying no," Lalonde says. "I’ve been on both sides of that being in a union my self. I’ve seen negotiations go well and negotiations go poorly. If I can put a little pressure on my little corner of the world … that’ll be good."
USA TODAY has reached out to representatives for Sony Pictures Entertainment, which produces "Jeopardy!," for further comment.
Hollywood writers are on strike Why? What that means for you
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy!' champions to boycott tournament because of writers strike