Riot Games is attempting to distance themselves from controversy as the company explains their reasoning for seemingly censoring casters from using the phrase “Hong Kong.”
Worlds 2019 casters seem to be avoiding referring to the pro team Hong Kong Attitude by their full title and instead are using their abbreviation HKA. Some in the LoL community believe this is because Riot Games is owned by Tencent.
Tencent is a Chinese conglomerate company that has investments in other game studios including Activision Blizzard and Epic Games. Tencent has taken a pro-China stance in relation to the Hong Kong protests, leading some to believe that the company is influencing Riot Games to censor any mention of the region.
Riot Games communications lead Ryan Rigney released an official statement regarding the situation.
“We refer to their team interchangeably by both their full name and their tricode abbreviation HKA, as we routinely do with all of the teams in our ecosystem,” Rigney said.
Most other teams are referred to by both their full and abbreviated names during the caster roundtables, but HKA is never mentioned by its full name. Casters have stumbled a few times when referring to the team, beginning with “Hong Kong-” only to hastedly return to the abbreviation.
Hong Kong citizens are protesting for further autonomy from China and for the preservation of democratic freedoms. These protests expanded to the esports scene when Hearthstone pro Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung shouted the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”
Blitzchung was banned and his prize money revoked. The Hearthstone community was sent into an uproar following the incident. Many fans chose to boycott Blizzard and accused the company of appeasing their Tencent investors.
Riot Games doesn’t want to repeat this mistake. Global head of League of Legends esports John Needham issued a public message stating that both casters and players have been instructed not to discuss any provocative topics while on air.
“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 (political, religious, or otherwise) separate,” Needham said.