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American University Hearthstone Team Banned For Hong Kong Protest

Gaming article by Robert N. Adams on October 16, 2019 at 2:24 PM
News

6 Month Ban In Line With Blitzchung's

Following the Hearthstone Hong Kong protest that led to Blitzchung being banned for 12 months (and subsequently reduced to 6 months), the American University Hearthstone team has finally suffered a similar fate: Blizzard Entertainment has also banned them for 6 months, bringing their punishment in line with that of Blitzchung and the two Asian casters' revised punishments.

On the off chance you've missed the Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy, the Cliff's notes are thus:

 
  1. A Hong Kong-based played named Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai states a pro-Hong Kong message in a post match interview, apparently after some light prompting from two Asian casters.
  2. Blizzard responds by banning Blitzchung for 12 months, canceling his winnings, removing him from Hearthstone Grandmasters, and terminating any future opportunities for the two casters.
  3. The fanbase (and people outside of the Hearthstone community) get royally pissed.
  4. The American University Hearthstone college team holds up a sign that says "Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz" in a post-match interview and receives no punishment, calling out Blizzard on their hypocrisy after not being penalized for their protest and ultimately forfeiting the remainder of the season of their own volition.
  5. Blizzard walks back the punishment for Blitzchung and the Asian casters to six months and promises to eventually pay out his winnings.
  6. The Internet continues to be upset. 
  7. [WE ARE HERE] Blizzard bans the American University College Team.

That's a lot to process, understandably. Just when the furor was dying down, it seems that Blizzard Entertainment has decided to continue on the same course that has led them to a lot of bad press as Kotaku reports.

American University Hearthstone college team Hong Kong sign
This is the sign that the American University Hearthstone college team held up in a post-match interview.

Casey Chambers Responds to the American University Hearthstone Team Ban

Casey Chambers of the American Univesity team that protested following Blitzchung's ban has spoken out about his own punishment.

 

"Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six month ban from competition," he said in a tweet. "While delayed I appreciate all played being treated equally and no one being above the rules."

The tweet he shared contained a screenshot of an e-mail claimed to be from Blizzard Entertainment, which we've transcribed in full below:

 

Hello Xcelsior,

This is a notifcation that your conduct on the official broadcast for The Collegiate Hearthstone Champtionship on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 violated rule 7.1`B (cited below) of the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship Fall 2019 Official Rules located at https://bnetcmsus-a.akamaihd.net/cms/content_entry_media/98/98EP04HKUVE91565623454873.pdf. We expect all players to follow the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship rules. Every Voice Matters at Blizzard, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in themany places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the game and the competition, and to be a place where all are welcome.

Infraction:

(1) Violation of ruile: 7.1B

7.1 Sportsmanship and Professionalism.

...

1.B. ...Participants may not take any action or perform any gesture directed at another Participant, Tesa Admin, or any other party or incite others to do the same which is abusive, insulting, mocking, or disruptive.

Penalty:

In accordance with section 9.2 A and B of the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship rules, Tournament Administration has decided to impose the following penalty for this rule violation. You are prohibited from participating in any Hearthstone  competitive tournaments (Blizzard operated, or 3rd party operated) for a period of 6 months beginning from October 8, 2019 and extending to April 8, 2020. Following the 6 months suspension, you may, at your discretion, continue to participate in Hearthstone esports.

 

9.2 Assessment of Penalties

2.A. Any violation of the Official Rules by one or more members of a Team will be subject

to penalty. The nature and extent of penalties imposed will be determined by

Tournament Administration. All decisions of Tournament Administration regarding

rules violations or other issues regarding the Tournament are final.

 

2.B. Penalties for rule violations will be assessed by Tournament Administration. These

penalties will vary, some examples being warnings, game losses, to

disqualification, in direct relation to the severity of the offense and the number of offenses commited previously by the same team.

 

Respectfully,

Hearthstone Esports Team

Importantly, he also included an image of what appears to be a post on the game's official website, which led us to track down a public-facing statement on this page (under the "Rulings" tab):

During week 4 of the Fall 2019 Hearthstone Collegiate Championships, players GiantDwarf, TJammer and Xcelsior were in violation of section 7.1.B of the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship rules for engaging in behavior disruptive to the official esports broadcast. The players are disqualified from the ongoing tournament and will be ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 6 months, beginning from October 8th, 2019 and extending to April 8th, 2020. Following the 6 months suspension, the players may, at their discretion, continue to participate in Hearthstone esports.

Casey Chambers and Blizzard Entertainment respond. 

We've reached out to the affected player and Blizzard for comment prior to this article going live. Both Casey Chambers from the American University Hearthstone team and Activision Blizzard's Public Relations Coordinator Eric Elliot have responded. We've reproduced their statements in full below.

We strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, our official broadcast needs to be about the game and the competition, and to be a place where all are welcome. If we allow the introduction of personal views about sensitive issues into the channel, it ceases to be what it’s meant for – esports. We have rules in place to support this, to which these competitors, as well as others at all levels, have agreed. They knowingly broke those rules and we’ve suspended them from Hearthstone esports for six months. The ruling is available here. — Eric Elliot, Activision Blizzard Public Relations Coordinator

"We’re happy to see equitable sanctions for similar actions but we can’t help but feel like Blizzard has been disingenuous this whole process. Based upon receiving another TESPA match, it seems like they didn’t sanction us until we called them out on their blatant hypocrisy. Furthermore the statement that relationships in China had no influence in their decision making was a bold-faced lie. We encourage  all gamers to asses whether they feel comfortable continuing to support Blizzard products. — Casey Chambers, American University Hearthstone Team Member

 

The furor over Blizzard's penalties assigned to players protesting for Hong Kong's freedom has escalated in the following days, so much so that it's a likely reason why Blizzard canceled the Overwatch Nintendo Switch edition launch event at the Nintendo Store in New York. We can't say for sure how the community will react to this news, but the odds are good that this is going to create renewed vigor for the people who are upset with Blizzard Entertainment.

What do you think of the American University Hearthstone college team being banned for 6 months? Do you think a 6-month ban is an appropriate punishment for their actions? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

A photograph of Robert N Adams

Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!