More news surrounding the Blizzard controversy has come forth, this time in the form of an official letter signed by; US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rob Wyden, Congressman Mike Gallagher, and Congressman Tom Malinowski. The letter is addressed to Blizzard’s CEO, Robert Kotick and addresses their concerns towards the companies action of penalizing Hearthstone player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung.
For those unaware, just to sum it up, Blitzchung during a post-match interview that was being live-streamed said “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” showing support for the protests taking place in Hong Kong. According to Blizzard, this violated the Grandmaster’s official rules and so the company banned him from participating in Hearthstone events for a full year and took back any prize money he had won.
Gamers online were outraged and Blizzard came under fire for their decision. Eventually, Blizzard issued a statement.
The letter can be found here. It begins by expressing their concern for the action that was taken against Blitzchung to make him forfeit his prize money and not take part in Hearthstone tournaments for a year. It’s worth pointing out here that the letter seems to be written and posted before Blizzard reduced the ban to 6-months and returned the prize money.
The letter continues,
“As you and your company are no doubt aware, the Chinese government uses the size and strength of its economy to suppress opinions with which it disagrees. Last week alone, the Chinese government targeted Apple for hosting an app to help peaceful demonstrators evade repression and the National Basketball Association because on team’s general manager tweeted in support of Hong Kong protests.”
“Activision Blizzard benefits from China’s growing market for esports with an investment from Tencent”
They then target Blizzard’s stance for freedom of speech by saying,
“Your company claims to stand by “one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,” yet many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzard’s decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values.”
They believe that because of how prominent Blizzard is in the gaming industry, this choice to punish Blitzchung could have a “chilling effect” on gamers who may wish to use their platforms to promote human rights and basic freedoms. They also state that Blizzard needs to decide to “look beyond the bottom line and promote American values —like freedom of speech and thought— or give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access.”
Another excerpt reads,
“Gamers around the world have taken notice of your company’s actions, understandably calling for boycotting of Activision Blizzard gaming sites.”
They finish the letter with,
“We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect to Mr. Chung, You have the opportunity to reverse course. We urge you to take it.”
The support for Blitzchung hasn’t just come from members of the government, a day after Blitzchung was penalized, the American University Hearthstone team held up a sign during their tournament showing support for Hong Kong. This led to the team being banned for 6 months too.
Things are looking messy for Blizzard, they’ve already canceled an event to celebrate the launch of Overwatch on the Nintendo Switch. They’re due to be holding Blizzcon on November 1, although there have been talks of protests taking place at the event.
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