Blizzard has suspended three collegiate Hearthstone players who held up a sign that read “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz” during an official competition stream.
Although only three players participated in the act that will now see them banned for six months, team player Casey Chambers says that the entire team was actually banned from competing. Chambers tweeted out the email a caption adding some context.
“Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six month ban from competition. While delayed I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules,” Chambers said.
The delayed response came a little over a week after the original infraction occurred, and collegiate esports fans speculate that it was done in response to criticism that they weren’t being consistent with their rulings.
“Every Voice Matters at Blizzard,” the email sent to Chambers began. “And we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves.”
Those who have reacted to the email Chambers posted have balked at the idea that Blizzard actually means what the email states, with some even pointing out that if it were a sign about gender identity, it wouldn’t have been handled this way.
Blizzard has famously promoted Pride celebrations in recent years. This has generally been to acclaim, but has now become a source of questions of hypocrisy considering the hardline stance Blizzard has taken on any on-stream discussion of the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Blizzard has been in a lot of hot water recently after they banned professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for voicing his support for the Hong Kong protesters during a live post-game interview. The player was banned for a period of one year and his prize money was withheld. The casters conducting the interview were also banned.
Those bans were reduced from one year to six months more recently, but players and fans were still unhappy with the decision. Blitzchung’s prize money was also reinstated, but for many the moves are too little and too late.
On their decision to ban the collegiate team, Blizzard has been silent on the matter. With only a few weeks to go until Blizzcon, fans are already talking of protests and boycotts ahead of their usually very popular annual event. Multiple protests have been scheduled for the event.