So it appears that the other shoe has dropped, and the fallout from a Hearthstone Grandmaster winner has been felt. Blizzard Entertainment has published an official statement regarding the actions of Hearthstone winner Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai, and made the call that he will be banned from competing for 12 months. The company already pulled his interview in which the original comments were made, so this was pretty much expected by anyone paying attention. Blizzard Taiwan deleted all VODs of the third day of Grandmasters to further hide the event, but this fueled much more backlash.
Blitzchung appeared on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone livestream wearing a gas mask and ski goggles, and shouted in Chinese, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” The livestream hosts quickly ducked out of sight, and closed the interview with, “Ok that’s it, Blitz bro.” The pro gamer also correctly predicted this backlash, “I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me a lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something about the issue,” he explained. Now, Blizzard Entertainment has deemed that his actions were in violation of Grandmasters official competition rules, specifically section 6.1 (o).
The rule is fairly broad, reading, “Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.”
This is basically a part of a set of moral clauses that bind all professional players. It’s the company trying to avoid litigation or other backlash for the comments made by players in many different context. And regardless of personal feelings about the validity of Blitzchung’s comments, it appears that Blizzard predictably chose to ere on the side of caution. The player will be banned from pro events for one year. They also took an extra step that is sure to incite some negative responses, by removing the two casters involved as well, even though they had nothing to do with the issue.
Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and will receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months beginning from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020. We will also immediately cease working with both casters.
Blizzard, knowing that this decision would be met with outrage on the part of pro-HK elements, offered a pretty weak statement in their defense, “We’d like to re-emphasize tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone esports community from both players and talent. While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.”