Blizzard Gives 6-Month Ban To College Team That Held Up 'Free Hong Kong' Sign

American University Hearthstone players who recently held up a sign calling for Hong Kong’s freedom during a livestream have been officially disciplined by Activision-Blizzard. In a Twitter post today, team member Casey Chambers stated that the team has been banned from competitive play for six months.

The situation started last week when pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai spoke in support of Hong Kong citizens currently embroiled in months-long protest with the government. During a livestream of the Hearthstone Asia-Pacific Grandmasters, Blitzchung called for a liberated Hong Kong and a “revolution of our age.”

As a result, he was initially banned from competitive play for 12 months and had his prize money revoked. The decision sparked immediate outcry against Blizzard, including demonstrations from workers on Blizzard’s campus in Irvine, California. Blitzchung’s suspension has since been reduced to six months and his prize money returned.

Later that week, American University’s three-player Hearthstone demonstrated in their own way, by holding up a sign that said “FREE HONG KONG, BOYCOTT BLIZZ” during a match. When a punishment from Blizzard to similar to Blitzchung’s was not forthcoming, the team voluntarily dropped out of future tournaments. Now, they’ve been officially banned for half a year.

Chambers posted an image of an email from Blizzard on their Twitter today. It reads:

“Every Voice Matters at Blizzard and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the game and competition, and to be a place where all are welcome.”

The email goes on to state that Chambers violated a rule regarding sportsmanship and that he is banned from competition for six months from the incident.

“Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six month ban from competition,” Chambers tweeted. “While delayed I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules.”

In the time since Blitzchung’s ban, pressure has mounted against Blizzard from fans disappointed with a slow response to the incident. Eventually, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack released a statement insisting that the content of Blitzchung’s message played no factor in disciplinary decisions, and that it was a result of breaking a general rule that states the company can punish players for “engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”

Kotaku has reached out to Blizzard for comment.


Comments

    Every Voice Matters unless you jeopardise our sucking at the warm teat of china

    Also worth looking into: I read that the college competitions have been instructed to stop doing interviews and to turn off team cameras.

    Tweets by Rob Breslau are the only source I’ve found for that at the moment.

    https://twitter.com/slasher/status/1183874969203347456?s=21

      They should also look into posting that the casters are no longer permanently banned and we're also given a 6 month ban instead.

      Both Rob and Mark Kern have been excellent sources during this whole thing.

    Seriously fuck blizzard at this point.

    They held up a sign to "Boycott Blizz" during a Blizzard run tournament. Honestly ... what other company would tolerate those shenanigans? They were TRYING to get banned and they accomplished their mission.

    Regardless of what your feelings on Blitzchung, in this case it was a case of damned if you do "if you do and damned if you don't".

    By the way, while I completely oppose China's actions in Hong Kong, you have to ask yourself "Was Blizzard in the wrong for enforcing tournament rules by banning Blitzchung?", especially as he knew he was breaking the rules. By the same token, was Rugby Australia wrong for banning Israel Falou? This are questions I struggle with after the Blitzchung incident and I came the conclusion it would have been hypocritical of me to not agree with Blizzard's decision while agreeing with Rugby Australia's. In both cases the rules/codecof conduct was broken.

    If you are really true to your beliefs on China, by all means ... boycott China. Stop using products that are manufactured there or dealing with companies that deal with China. Anything less is hypocritical.

      'Were they wrong to punish a rule-breaker?' is not, was not ever the question.

      Cheaters - actual cheaters - have been given mere wrist-slaps, disqualification and nothing more. Whereas supporting a call for basic human rights is worth the nuclear option killing the careers of the person who does it and everyone in the vicinity? And would that have happened if they'd been 'talking politics' about supporting equal rights for LGBTI+ instead of for protestors who are in the cross-hairs of Blizzard's cash-cow?

      THAT is where the issue is.

      Also, please do not trot out that 'stop using all Chinese products or you're a hypocrite' fallacy.

      You don't need to go cold turkey on fatty/sugary foods to make a difference to your diet.
      You don't need to go cold turkey on cigarettes to improve your health.
      And you don't need to 100% excise all traces of Chinese involvement in all products everywhere to make a statement.

      Not only for the sheer difficulty of it, but for the sake of targeting the actual behaviour that's causing offence. Targeting one company by current relevance in the public eye, when making a statement, matters.

      (Reposted to edit for some language.)

      (Also, re: the Israel Falou thing, it's a matter of framing. It's not, "Is one company right to have rules that censor, while the other isn't?" Israel Falou wasn't making a call for rights, he was punching down on a minority that's already faced disgusting persecution. Calls for human rights and calls for demonization are not, should not ever be considered the same. One should be allowed - even applaued - the other should be punished. There are clear rights and wrongs here, not just people punished for stating harmless opinions.)

    Lets just keep applying fuel to the fire, the people in Blizzards PR team are either morons or are currently having a nervous breakdown.

      Don't be naive. The third option is they are well aware of the financial contribution of Tencent and where their company would be without that. Currently that outweighs the negative publicity and the minor hit in sales that will follow from banning a few political outbursts that they can try and blame on general rules anyway.

      I don't think their PR team are morons.

      PR Teams only advise. It seems more likely they were told "This is how it's happening, This comes from above you"

    Fully expected. Do the crime, expect to do the time.

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