League Of Legends Warns Pro Players Against Discussing Hong Kong Protests

While pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong continue, political unrest is now having an impact on eSports as developers and promoters seek to avoid problems with Chinese companies often intertwined with the federal government. 

League Of Legends is the latest major multiplayer title to make a statement about the issue. Global Head of League of Legends eSports John Needham recently tweeted a message asking players and podcasters to refrain from mentioning politics during eSports events. Needham commented: 

We serve fans from different countries and cultures, and this opportunity comes with a responsibility to keep personal views on sensitive issues (political, religious, or otherwise) separate. These topics are often nuanced, require deep understanding and a willingness to listen, and cannot be fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides. Therefore, remind our casters and pro players from discussing any of these topics on air.

Needham additionally mentions the Hong Kong protests in particular, asking that League Of Legends events remain positive and unifying. It isn’t clear what, if any, disciplinary action may be implemented against players who discuss the Hong Kong protests during game-focused events. 

League Of Legends is developed by Riot Games, which in turn is owned by Chinese company Tencent Holdings (OTCMKTS: TCEHY). 

Companies seeking to clamp down on political commentary from pro eSports players came into the public eye of the gaming community when Activision Blizzard banned a Hearthstone pro player earlier this month.  

Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai was banned from this season of Grandmasters after expressing support for the Hong Kong protests in a post-match interview. In addition to being stripped of his earnings so far in 2019, he will not be allowed to play at a pro level for another two years. 

After outcry from the Hearthstone community, Blizzard issued a statement explaining the company can remove any player from the Grandmasters group if they have brought “public disrepute” or damaged Blizzard’s image. 

Rather than soothing tensions, that statement led to further unrest from fans, with protests and boycotts expected at upcoming Blizzard events. Aside from the player ban, two interviewers who discussed the protests with Blitzchung were also fired, leading to hashtags such as #boycottblizzard to trend on Twitter over the past week. 

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Ty Arthur
Ty Arthur has spent the last decade of his journalism career covering everything from cutting-edge tech to local news through outlets such as the Houston Chronicle. He has focused on the counterculture aspects of society, from marijuana legalization to underground music through Metalunderground.com and rapidly changing trends in the entertainment industry. He lives in the cold, dark north with his wife and son. Address: 682 Indian Road, Toronto, Ontario, M6P 2C9. Phone: 416-721-8257.
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