Today, Blizzard has issued an official statement regarding the ban of blitzchung at the Hearthstone Grandmasters Tournament last weekend after he supported the protests happening in Hong Kong during an interview. The ban was met with backlash from fans and Blizzard employees as well. Speaking on the decision that they made, J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment said:
Hello Blizzard Community . . .
I want to take a few minutes to talk to all of you about the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament this past weekend. On Monday, we made the decision to take action against a player named blitzchung and two shoutcasters after the player shared his views on what’s happening in Hong Kong on our official broadcast channel.
At Blizzard, our vision is “to bring the world together through epic entertainment.” And we have core values that apply here: Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; and importantly, Every Voice Matters, encouraging everybody to share their point of view. The actions that we took over the weekend are causing people to question if we are still committed to these values. We absolutely are and I will explain.
Our esports programs are an expression of our vision and our values. Esports exist to create opportunities for players from around the world, from different cultures, and from different backgrounds, to come together to compete and share their passion for gaming. It is extremely important to us to protect these channels and the purpose they serve: to bring the world together through epic entertainment, celebrate our players, and build diverse and inclusive communities.
Blizzard says that the decision to ban blitzchung came about over blitzchung using the segment to make a statement about the situation in Hong Kong which was “in violation of rules he acknowledged and understood.” While the statement mentions that the company” believes that every voice matters and strongly encourages everyone in the Blizzard community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves.” Though Brack states that “the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome. In support of that, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game.”
Blizzard says that “the specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made.” Brack continued with, “I want to be clear; our relationship in China had no influence on our decision.” The ban of blitzchung was met with many players, casters, esports fans, and employees expressing their concerns with the decision. After a few days, Blizzard made changes to their decision:
We want to ensure that we maintain a safe and inclusive environment for all our players, and that our rules and processes are clear. All of this is in service of another important Blizzard value—Play Nice; Play Fair.
In the tournament itself blitzchung *played* fair. We now believe he should receive his prizing. We understand that for some this is not about the prize, and perhaps for others it is disrespectful to even discuss it. That is not our intention.
But playing fair also includes appropriate pre- and post-match conduct, especially when a player accepts recognition for winning in a broadcast. When we think about the suspension, six months for blitzchung is more appropriate, after which time he can compete in the Hearthstone pro circuit again if he so chooses. There is a consequence for taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast.
With regard to the casters, remember their purpose is to keep the event focused on the tournament. That didn’t happen here, and we are setting their suspension to six months as well.
Concluding the statement, J. Allen Brack said that “moving forward, we will continue to apply tournament rules to ensure our official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views. One of our goals at Blizzard is to make sure that every player, everywhere in the world, regardless of political views, religious beliefs, race, gender, or any other consideration always feels safe and welcome both competing in and playing our games. At Blizzard, we are always listening and finding ways to improve-it is a part of our culture. Thank you for your patience with us as we continue to learn.”