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Blizzard Bans College 'Hearthstone' Team For Holding Up Free Hong Kong Sign

Blizzard Bans College 'Hearthstone' Team For Holding Up Free Hong Kong Sign

Just when you thought things might be about to quieten down for Blizzard, it throws itself straight into another truck load of controversy. The company has now suspended a team of college Hearthstone players for six months, for holding up a sign calling for Hong Kong's freedom in a recent livestream.

This comes mere days after Blizzard relented in the face of intense global backlash and reduced the suspension of Hearthstone pro player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai over sharing a similar sentiment during a separate livestream. I can't imagine people are going to take this news any better than they took the Blitzchung situation.

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In a Twitter post last night, American University team member Casey Chambers revealed that the three-player Hearthstone team has been banned from competitive play for six months. The team, like so many around the world, were protesting Blitzchung's suspension in their own way, by holding up a sign that said "FREE HONG KONG, BOYCOTT BLIZZ" during a match.

When it looked like Blizzard weren't about to deliver a punishment to the team that matched Blitzchung's, they instead opted to drop out of the Hearthstone tournament on their own. Chambers - joined by fellow members Corwin Dark and TJammer - argued that Blizzard's lack of action towards them was "hypocritical."

"As soon as the messaging is out of the view of China, they don't care about 'political' messaging," they wrote, in response to the argument that Blitzchung's ban was solely motivated by Blizzard trying to protect its business interests in China. Blizzard has since denied this.

It took a few days, but Chambers was finally able to share an image of the email he received from Blizzard on Twitter, notifying him of the rules his team had broken and informing them of their punishment.

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'Hearthstone' Pro Suspended By Blizzard Over Hong Kong Liberation Comments
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'Hearthstone' Pro Suspended By Blizzard Over Hong Kong Liberation Comments

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

Hearthstone Pro Blitzchung Credit: Blizzard
Hearthstone Pro Blitzchung Credit: Blizzard

Earlier this week, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack explained in a statement that the company wants to keep esports events focused on games, and that the sentiment behind Blitzchung's comments wasn't the issue, it was that he commented on an issue that had nothing to do with Hearthstone. Nor, claims Brack, did the ruling have anything to do with Blizzard's business interests in China.

"The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made," Brack wrote. "I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision."

"We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same."

Arena of Hearthstone / Credit: Blizzard
Arena of Hearthstone / Credit: Blizzard

Blitzchung later responded to Blizzard's statement, writing that he was grateful the company reduced the suspension, but that he also has "no idea" if he'll return to the game in a competitive capacity. "I will take this time to relax myself to decide if I am staying in competitive Hearthstone scene or not," he wrote.

Despite Blizzard's statement and Blitzchung's reduced sentence, protests against the company continue. Many believe that this is the reason Blizzard decided to cancel the Overwatch event in New York City at the last minute, though the company seems to intend to go ahead with BlizzCon, despite planned protests at the event.

Featured Image Credit: Blizzard

Topics: hearthstone, Blizzard, Hong Kong

Ewan Moore

Journalist at GAMINGbible who still quite hasn’t gotten out of my mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), I went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis.