A Hong Kong-based gamer voiced support for the protesters demanding freedom in his country, and was promptly slapped with a one-year suspension and forced to forfeit his winnings.
Following a win Sunday, a Hearthstone Grand Masters player who goes by the name “blitzchung” concluded a post-game livestream by shouting his support for those who were protesting in the streets. “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” he said.
in a post-match Hearthstone Grandmasters winning interview, Hong Kong HS player @blitzchungHS said “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!”
in response, Blizzard Taiwan has now deleted the VOD from their official Twitch channel https://t.co/l5lcMu4ULR
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 7, 2019
Blizzard Entertainment, the American gaming company that owns Hearthstone, released a statement Tuesday claiming that blitzchung had violated the official tournament rules.
Breaking: Effective immediately, Blizzard has removed Hong Kong Hearthstone player blitzchung from Hearthstone Grand Masters, rescinded all his prize money, and have suspended him from pro play for one year for his recent interview.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 8, 2019
Blizzard Entertainment’s statement read, in part:
Upon further review we have found the action has violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules section 6.1(o) and is individual behavior which does not represent Blizzard or Hearthstone Esports. 6.1(o) is found below:
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 will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
News of his suspension was met with an outcry of support for blitzchung from gamers and other gaming competitions all over the world.
.@Blizzard_Ent just banned @blitzchungHS and stripped his Hearthstone winnings because they care about money more than freedom. We will pay for ALL his lost winnings and a ticket to our $500k tournament: no player should be punished for their beliefs. #freegaming https://t.co/ONvtkG4x9G
— Gods Unchained (@GodsUnchained) October 8, 2019
The subreddit for Blizzard’s Hearthstone is absolutely flooded with people outraged at the company for banning a player for supporting Hong Kong. Tens of thousands of upvotes for posts about cancelling accounts and asking for refunds. Good on all of them. https://t.co/SV0hb6qWfH pic.twitter.com/bdFPMbwjv6
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) October 8, 2019
Blitzchung gave a statement to Inven Global following the livestream, saying that he was aware his words were likely to cause a stir. (RELATED: Hong Kong Protesters Wave American Flags, Voice Support For Trump)
As you know there are serious protests in my country now. My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn’t focus on preparing my Grandmaster match. I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something about the issue.
A similar situation arose just days earlier when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voiced support for the protesters in Hong Kong. In a move that was roundly criticized from Americans on either side of the political aisle, the NBA put out a statement distancing the organization from Morey’s comments.