Blizzard has officially returned Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai’s prize money and reduced his professional ban to six months instead of one year. The company also announced a reduced ban for the commentators from the event.
Blitzchung was punished for his post-game interview comments in support of the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Since then, Blizzard employees have staged walkouts while members of the gaming and esports communities have released critical statements about Blizzard’s actions.
In response, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack released a statement Friday evening.
“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,” Brack said. “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.”
Scott “SirScoots” Smith asked if these statements meant that Blizzard would no longer use their broadcasts to support things like Pride week.
“Either the broadcasts can be used by them, players, and teams to address any social and political issues or they can’t be used at all right?” SirScoots asked.
Brack consistently referenced to the phrase “every voice matters,” which has been used against Blizzard in defense of blitzchung by many of the critical voices speaking out against Blizzard.
Brack also specifically addressed accusations that Blizzard was acting against blitzchung specifically because his words ran against Chinese national interests.
“The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision,” Brack said. “If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same.”
He then specified that blitzchung had competed fairly and was thus eligible to receive his prize money.
He explained that the commentators for the event would also be banned for six months, after failing to keep the event focused on the tournament.
“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,” Brack said.
The announcement was released on Friday, five days after the initial decision to ban blitzchung and the casters.
blitzchung has also released a statement. He says he has been told that after the six-month ban he will be able to return to Grandmasters competition. He also petitioned to have the suspension on the casters removed and to have his own suspension further reduced.
It remains to be seen whether this statement will have any effect on the overall opinion of Blizzard’s autonomy when it comes to Chinese investors. Early response has not been positive.