After Dota 2 Team Fails To Ban One Of Its Players, Valve Does It For Them

Screenshot: YouTube

Yesterday, professional Dota 2 player Carlo “Kuku” Palad was banned from a major tournament due to making what were seen as racist comments in a match last month.

Prior to this move, Dota developer Valve had condemned Palad’s behaviour but refused to inject itself directly into the matter, calling instead on teams to dole out the proper punishments themselves. Valve’s eventual intervention shows how untenable that approach was.

On November 3, Carlo “Kuku” Palad, a 22-year-old Dota 2 pro who plays for Philippine team TNC Predator, typed the words “ching chong” in chat during a pub game. Following on the heels of another player typing the same phrase during a competitive match, the incident blew up, with Chinese fans demanding Palad be sanctioned.

At first, TNC’s manager claimed that “ching chong” was simply the handle of one of the other players in the match rather than a racial slur, something he later admitted was untrue.

Chinese fans began to review bomb the Steam page for Dota 2, calling on Valve to take action against Palad, but the company demurred. On November 10 Valve published a blog post explaining that it won’t tolerate racist behaviour among pro players, but it called on teams to be the ones to enforce these values and hold their players accountable.

While Valve was clear in its condemnation of racism, it was vague about everything else, including what would happen if teams failed to act as Valve saw appropriate.

Later in November, following Valve’s blog post and the Kuala Lumpur Major in which the team finished fifth, TNC decided to dock 50 per cent of Palad’s earnings from the event as punishment, as well as donating half a month’s salary from the team manager to an anti-racism organisation. The team planned to go forward with having Palad on the roster for the Chongqing Major being held in China in January.

On December 2 US time, TNC began claiming on Twitter that it had been told by tournament organisers that Chinese authorities were threatening to cancel the event, or potentially not let Palad into the country, should he try to attend. The team also claimed that while Palad wasn’t being officially banned from the event, tournament organisers had told him that his safety could not be guaranteed if he went.

The rumours became a flashpoint for the community, leading to a larger debate about whether locations and not Valve should have the final say on who attends events. There was also speculation about whether Palad would be refused entry to 2019’s International, also set to be held in China.

Meanwhile, some Dota 2 casters, such as Grant Harris, said they would pull out of the event if Palad wasn’t allowed to attend.

“We all make mistakes and 1 mistake should not forbid you from playing at a tournament that potentially decides your whole career,” Harris wrote.

It wasn’t until December 3 that Valve finally decided to step in and make its intentions clear in a second blog post: Palad would be banned from the event and TNC would be docked 20 per cent of its Pro Circuit points, which determine whether a team gets to attend Dota 2’s big International tournament every August.

“TNC contacted Valve last Tuesday, asking if they would get a DPC point penalty for replacing Kuku; we told them that they wouldn’t,” Valve said in the post. “We assumed that they were then working on a plan to replace Kuku with another player. However it seems like TNC is currently not taking proper responsibility for their actions, coupled with the attempted cover up by the team, so we are now stepping in directly and banning Kuku from attending this event."

"To be clear, TNC is not the victim in this case. It is not ok to cover up the situation, avoid any real sense of responsibility and then deflect it onto the community. We expect them to disagree with this."

TNC did not disagree, saying on Twitter that the team respected Valve’s decision and apologising for “the troubles this issue has caused.” But in many ways Valve’s effort to lead from behind has only created further confusion about what its expectations are regarding how teams should self-regulate.

It’s also not exactly clear whether Valve banned Palad from the event because of his original racist comment or because TNC was fuelling the controversy around the issue on social media. Valve did not respond to a request by Kotaku for comment.

Alan “Nahaz” Bester, a Dota 2 analyst, wrote an op-ed in last week criticising the “leadership vacuum” in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, Valve’s equivalent to Blizzard’s Overwatch League. “The problem here is that, in each case, the response from Valve was reactionary and determined seemingly on an ad hoc basis,” he wrote.

“To my knowledge, there is not and never has been a complete set of written rules for the DPC, nor for The International itself.”

Bester added that unless Valve adopts clearer guidelines, which he and other figures in esport have offered to help do, he doesn’t see this being the last time that a seemingly straightforward issue like sanctioning a player for toxic behaviour blows up into something larger.


    LOL, if Kuku doesn't have Chinese blood in him somewhere I'll eat my hat. Why the hell would he be racist to Chinese? Because he's an ignorant toss-wad.

    I mean, he was talking about the next Major, the QingChong major. It's pretty low tier racism, especially coming from an asian dude. Not to excuse it by any means, but the entire situation has been utterly mishandled by Valve, from start to finish

      No he wasn't. The place is called Chongqing, not the other way.

        Just to clarify further, Kuku issued an apology on Weibo, claiming that there was a player in the match named Ching Chong who had just killed him and he was just saying the guy's name. However, Steam logs name changes and the person with that name had only changed his name to Ching Chong after the match had finished. When Kuku was asked to explain this, he deleted the Weibo post. Team manager Paulo Sy later confessed that he'd been complicit in trying to cover it up:

        I’m sure a lot of you are looking for an explanation on why did Kuku try to lie his way out of the incident. It was me. I was the one who posted the screenshot post. I was the one who told the LGD manager that Kuku only said the racism word because there was someone using the name without Kuku’s knowledge. I was the one who lied. After seeing some posts on Kuku’s weibo, that someone was named (*hing *hong) on his game and tried defending Kuku, I checked the match ID. I did saw on the screenshot that someone was indeed using the name not knowing that it was only changed hours before and had a different name during the game. I saw that opportunity to cover up what Kuku did. As a manager, I always saw my job as someone who should make everything easier for the team. Instead, I made it worst

        This is what people are more pissed off about, the fact they both tried to lie about it and cover it up, and that's what Valve was pissed about too when they said "coupled with the attempted cover up by the team". None of this is accidentally referring to the Chongqing Major.

    Not trying to his that what about-ism, but there are plenty of chinese pros being racist on stream and Valve doesn't do shit. Just seems like their usual china deep throating at play.

      I came here to say this. I've seen 50x more racist Chinese pros than I have of anywhere else. Very hypocritical of Valve.

      Mainland Chinese people are the most racist, xenophobic and hypocritcal group of people on the planet. 94% one ethnicity: check. Hyper nationalistic culture whipped up by government and local celebrities: check. Government running ethnic re-education cleansing camps: check.

      Oh but we are offended by "Ching Chong" by the way. Said in a pub game.

      Meanwhile in my AUS Dota ranked games I'm regularly called a white dog and told I'm a bogan and that they're "buying up my country".

    Just another case of Valve bowing to Chinese pressure.

    This article fails to mention the disgusting conduct of Chinese fans - review bombing Dota 2 on Steam is the only thing mentioned. They were also attacking Kuku and threatening his family(has a wife and 2 yr old) on twitter, attacking wykrym on weibo(prominent reddit community member) and all the while the prominent Chinese community members were whipping them all into a frenzy and they all attached #RESPECT to their names in pro matches. Hypocrites.

    They were calling wykrym a white pig and other racial slurs.

    It has also come to light recently that a prominent Chinese pro. One of the longest standing in the scene, RotK; was racist towards Fillipino people in a weibo post in 2016. Calling them "monkeys".

    China is the most xenophobic and hypocritical nation on earth. This whole drama has just brought that to light even more.

    Last edited 06/12/18 10:49 am

      Valve's policy seems to be hands off unless it might impact their bottom line. Nothing to do with morals sadly.

        They claimed they had accepted TNCs punishment for Kuku in their first blog post.

        Then directly contradicted themselves in the second blog post and banned him themselves.

        Bowing to Chinese pressure.

    i'm regularly exposed to the retarded idea that only white people have power and you must have power to be racist, sucks to be this guy but at least the list of people who can be racist has expanded beyond only white people.

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