Riot Forbids League Of Legends Players And Commentators From Discussing Politics On Air

Photo: Riot Games

Ever since Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai got suspended for a year by Blizzard after making a declaration of support for Hong Kong earlier this week, the issue of politics during esports streams has been a hot topic. The head of Fortnite studio Epic Games, for example, said he supports players’ right to speak out about politics and human rights. Now, however, Riot has taken the opposite approach.

In a statement on Twitter, the League of Legends developer and publisher said that pro players and commentators have been told to keep their political thoughts to themselves during official broadcasts.

“We serve fans from many different countries and cultures, and we believe this opportunity comes with a responsibility to keep personal views on sensitive issues (political, religious, and otherwise) separate,” wrote Riot global head of esports John Needham. “These topics are often incredibly nuanced, require deep understanding and a willingness to listen, and cannot be fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides. Therefore, we have reminded our casters and pro players to refrain from discussing any of these topics on air.”

He went on to say that Riot has fans in volatile places like Hong Kong, and as a result, “we have a responsibility to do our best to ensure that statements or actions on our official platforms (intended or not) do not escalate potentially sensitive situations.” In telling people to stay mum about politics, Needham said Riot hopes that League of Legends can be “a positive force that brings people together, no matter where they are in the world.”

As of 2015, Riot was fully owned by Chinese mega-company Tencent, who also owns portions of many other video game companies including Epic and Blizzard.

In this case, Riot clearly intends to remain neutral, but as Kotaku’s Joshua Rivera wrote earlier this week, video games are not neutral, and the furor surrounding Blizzard’s Hong Kong fiasco—which has led numerous players, commentators, and fans to protest—is proof of that. In making this decision, Riot is picking a side and, through its global influence, contributing to an oppressive and harmful status quo, even if it believes it’s just staying on the sidelines.


    "we're neither for or against tear-gassing protesters"

      There are two different kinds of protestors in HK right now, the peaceful ones and the violent ones.
      So far the riot measures like tear gas, dye and rubber bullets have only been used in response to violent clashes and many of the peaceful groups have tried to distance themselves from the violent elements.

      Those kinds of actions will always result in riot measures around the world, as we've seen in France and other parts of Europe recently, the USA and other countries.
      (Same would happen here under the same circumstances)

        That kid who was shot in the chest with a real gun might have a thing to say about it.
        Also, rubber bullets kill people all the time.
        Also, the initial protests were non violent opposition to state violence. The state violence was stepped up and the protesters responded in kind.
        You can't expect people to ask nicely that they not have their rights stolen, please, if it's not too much trouble. The curtailing of those rights are violence in itself. Protest works specifically because it causes inconvenience to the state. Being nice about it and not causing trouble is antithetical to protest as a practice.

          Video of the shooting was captured and was widely available and analysed in the media.
          The victim was part of a large group that tackled and beat a riot officer with weapons, when the second officer moved to intervene with his gun drawn the victim rushed him and was shot upon striking the officer.
          The officer was restrained by other police and paramedics were brought in to administer aid and transport to hospital.
          It's a tragedy but no matter how we feel it does show the exact training and action seen from legitimate police forces around the world.
          (Before these events the HK police were seen as one of the most professional forces in Asia as well)

          As for the protests, they've also been well documented by western media, framing is a whole other matter.
          The peaceful protesters are groups that follow the letter of the law and march under the belief of woh-leih-fei (basically: peaceful, rational, nonviolent), they make up the bulk of protests we've seen in recent years and the larger events in recent weeks that have gone off without violence.
          These events are the ones that have produced images like police and protesters happily chatting, protesters using their umbrellas to cover police from the rain and social media posts calling on allies to not take their hatred out on police.

          The second major group which has risen over the years call themselves Yuhng Mouh and believe the government doesn't listen to peaceful protesting and advocate more extreme forms of activism.
          They make up the smaller numbers of people we see clashing with police/pro China activists, throwing molotovs and attacking business/buildings.
          In the past they weren't a big concern but government inaction following the intial peaceful protests has caused them to strike out.

          I support the peaceful protesters 100% but find it a little hard to support the ones engaging in the kinds of violence that inevitably attracts the police response we've seen.
          I also find it difficult to support the actions of the police but also recognise that this is exactly the kind of thing their trained to do under these circumstances around the world which places them in a crappy position because if they didn't respond then they wouldn't be doing their jobs.
          (Not everybody is protesting and not everyone caught up in the violence is pro China either)

            I'm not going to argue the blow by blow account of what happened, because that's all fair enough. Where I think we differ is that when an entire culture is being forced under another, they are already the victims of violence. The police are a tool of the state enacting that violence. An individual person can be on the force and be a decent person, but the fact is that their job is to enact violence on behalf of the state.
            Clearly the government isn't listening. Clearly the government is under the rule of a foreign power. Their government has failed them in the worst possible way and they shouldn't be expected to ask nicely anymore. Talk got them nothing. Talking more isn't going to help.

              I would say what we differ on is how much we're willing to recognise the complexities of the situation.

              I support the people of Hong Kong to do as they want to do but the reality of that isn't as simple as my own beliefs on what they should do or how I feel about China, It means recognising that it's a population that's more diverse and divided on their future than many people are willing to accept.

              The thing that is clear to me is that emotions are running high and that disinformation, ignorance and fear isn't just a tool of China and its supporters.

                You can get as granular as you like, but the fact remains that Hong Kong has had its sovereignty denied by successive imperialist powers and they have engaged with the system in order to assert that sovereignty for years. The system has failed them. They are now refusing to engage the system that ignored them and the imperialist power has decided to do what imperialists do. They have mobilised a force to control the populace through martial law.
                No nation is a monolith. Of course there are going to be dissenting voices, no matter the action.

    "Horrific injustices are happening, but we think the 'neutral' thing to do is let them happen without comment or criticism."


      When you take daddy China's money, you gotta keep him happy. These companies put themselves in this position and now its having repercussions.

    100% owned by tencent, fully expected, but suprised it took them this long as this was announced yesterday , 5 days after blizzard shat the block

      Probably waiting to see the extent of the fallout from Blizz's cock-up

    As of 2015, Riot was fully owned by Chinese mega-company Tencent, who also owns portions of many other video game companies including Epic and Blizzard.

    If you company has any stock or investment from Tencent, then you're going to do everything you can to keep them happy as they are one of the biggest investment companies in the world right now... And 100% Chinese owned.

    Any company that says they want to be 'neutral' while sending out messages for players, commentators or anyone else involved in the esports side of things to be quiet, you know it's a demand from Grand Master Tencent

    This is fine. Politics do not belong in video game broadcasts.

    "Free speech" means you have the right to express your political views. It does not mean at any time you wish.

    To quote Professor Oak, "Blitzchung, there is a time and a place for everything. But not now."

    These topics are often incredibly nuanced, require deep understanding
    Ah yes, the notion of not ruling over people with an iron fist while looking to punish and/or silence anyone voicing unfavourable opinions... Takes years of study to understand that one.

    Talk about a "You just don't understand, so just be quiet and fall in line." comment.

      Yeah. You really need to have studied the subject in-depth over a significant period of time in order to understand why the brainwashed, nationalistic citizens of brutally authoritarian dictatorships might find it deeply offensive when others in their nation agitate for freedom and independence, and why we should respect their feelings that everyone should just shut up and unquestioningly accept the rule of the party and all its abuses.

      Both sides are totally the same in this conflict, just a difference of opinion, right?

    China is basically stifling free speech and all these companies are totally fine with this as long as it doesn’t hurt their bottom line.
    Some cowardly bullshit. Fuck China.

    Needham said Riot hopes that League of Legends can be “a positive force that brings people together, no matter where they are in the world.”

    Except that some of those people don't have the same rights as others.

    I'd actually say the positive force is those champions that voice their support for basic human rights and freedom of speech over the hail hydra corporate sycophants!

    You really have to feel a bit bad for Riot, because they've been put in the worst position imaginable here. This is the middle of their World Championship, the biggest event in esports, and they find themselves in the unenviable position of being owned by a Chinese company with a team called Hong Kong Attitude competing. They didn't ask for this, and now they're worried that they're going to all lose their jobs if something goes wrong. Tencent bought Riot 4 years ago, long before all this tension with China had even STARTED to escalate to this level, and they were able to use the funding to make LoL the biggest esport in the world. I don't see anything wrong with them asking their players to please, if you want to make political statements, can you not do it on our stage, otherwise you're going to ruin everything it for everyone else? But they must be sweating bullets about what will happen if some player, either from HKA or another team sympathetic to them, just decides that screw it, their esports career is worth sacrificing to make a political statement. Riot just want to be able to do their jobs. The Hong Kong situation is important, literal life and death for many people, and freedom of speech should be respected. But sometimes you need to think whether your speech is going to actually do any real good, or whether it's just going to cause an immense amount of trouble for a whole bunch of people who otherwise aren't even involved? You can't just say "Riot takes Chinese money, fuck them all".

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