John Needham, the global head of League of Legends esports, has released an announcement about political statements made during League of Legends broadcasts.
The biggest League of Legends tournament of the year has just gotten underway. The 2019 League of Legends World Championship kicked off with two former world champions facing off as Fnatic fell to SK Telecom T1.
Needham’s statement addressed the start of Worlds, saying he wanted to be clear about Riot Games’ stance on “sensitive” topics during broadcasts. This comes five days after Blizzard banned a player from competitive play for voicing support of protests in Hong Kong in a post-game interview. Blizzard drew much criticism for the punishment.
It also comes after fans complained during the play-in stages for Worlds. They questioned why the broadcasters were shortening the name of one of the teams competing, specifically referring to Hong Kong Attitude as “HKA.”
Needham’s statement was very similar in theme to that of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack’s. The broadcasts are intended to showcase the games, not politics.
“As a general rule, we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players. We serve fans from many different countries and cultures, and we believe this opportunity comes with a responsibility to keep personal views on sensitive issues separate,” Needham said.
Needham referred to many issues as “nuanced.” Many fans derided the statement, offering that protesting in favor of the preservation of individual freedoms was hardly a matter of great nuance. Blizzard’s response faced similar backlash.
All of this uproar has led to some of the top brands in gaming esports releasing statements. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney released a statement expressing his full support for players expressing their beliefs during events.
The response to Blizzard’s decision has been one of the driving stories of the week. Most fans appear to be disappointed by many of the statements released by Blizzard and Riot Games.
It appears that these statements have been an attempt to satiate the crowd looking for answers. The statements haven’t done much to change the opinion of fans that Chinese investment money is, at least on some level, dictating the level of free speech professional players and broadcasters can enjoy during event broadcasts.