Late Friday night, Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack released a statement regarding the company’s recent punishment of a player for supporting Hong Kong protesters.
Last week, Blizzard suspended professional Hearthstone player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung after the player expressed support for Hong Kong protesters during an after-match interview. Blitzchung appeared on camera wearing a gas mask, which he took off to say, “Liberate Honk Kong, revolution of our age,” in Chinese. The two interviewers hid behind their desk to avoid being associated with the statement.
That didn’t help them, as Blizzard fired the two interviewers. Blitzchung was also suspended from Hearthstone esports tournaments for one year and revoked his prize winnings.
As The Daily Wire’s James Barrett reported Thursday, a backlash against Blizzard ensued.
Friday night, Blizzard backpedaled somewhat on its punishment of the three members of the Hearthstone community. The broadcasters were given a six-month suspension rather than being fired, and Blitzchung’s prize money was reinstated and his suspension was reduced to six months as well.
“At Blizzard, our vision is ‘to bring the world together through epic entertainment,’” Brack wrote. “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.”
Brack went on to explain that pre- and post-match interviews are supposed to be about the game, and broadcasters are supposed to keep players focused on the game itself. He explained how Blitzchung violated tournament rules:
Over the weekend, blitzchung used his segment to make a statement about the situation in Hong Kong—in violation of rules he acknowledged and understood, and this is why we took action.
Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, 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.
Brack then claimed that part of “Thinking Globally, Leading Responsibly, and Every Voice Matters is recognizing that we have players and fans in almost every country in the world.” Therefore, Brack wrote, Blizzard’s goal “is to help players connect in areas of commonality, like their passion for our games, and create a sense of shared community.”
Brack insisted that Blitzchung’s message was not the reason for his punishment and that “our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.”
Brack claimed that a player voicing the opposing viewpoint would also have been punished.
The president of Blizzard Entertainment then acknowledged that the company “reacted too quickly” before explaining the new punishments for the three community members. Because Blitzchung’s comments had nothing to do with how he actually played the game, his prize money was reinstated. Brack did, however, suggest that the company would continue to restrict what players can and can’t say during interviews about their matches.
“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,” Brack wrote.
While Blitzchung received some reprieve, Brack’s statement will do little to squash the backlash against the company.