A few days ago, players from four Chinese Overwatch League teams said they would boycott any events that included Korean player Jong-ryeol "Saebyeolbe" Park. However, a group of newly-released statements reveal that all five teams involved (Saebyeolbe's team Seoul Dynasty and the four Chinese teams.) will "resume normal activities."
Why did these Overwatch teams want to boycott Saebyeolbe?
On April 12 in a now-deleted stream on Twitch (which can still be seen in the linked tweet below,) Park talked about some of his struggles streaming on the Chinese streaming platform Douyu. He remarked (translated by Overwatch eSports commentator Gatamchun) that he wasn't allowed to mention Taiwan or Hong Kong because they aren't considered separate countries, and when he objected to his manager's beliefs in the One-China policy, a political idea that Taiwan and Hong Kong are an indivisible part of China instead of their own nations, they told him that "If you want to earn Chinese money, you have to become a Chinese dog." Two days later, Park posted a handwritten note on Instagram (also translated by Gatamchun) that apologized for his comments without going into specifics about what prompted the apology.
SBB on stream— 아나탈 (@gatamchun) May 3, 2021
"I can't call Taiwan, Taiwan. Taiwan is not a separate country. Hong Kong is also not a country. I can't say that. I can't say Taiwan and HK. At all. They don't recognize them as countries. I got into so much trouble for saying their names."https://t.co/z0GOvwXvaM
This Tuesday, nearly three weeks after the comments and apology, members of the four Chinese Overwatch League teams - the Shanghai Dragons, Chengdu Hunters, Hangzhou Spark, and Guangzhou Charge - posted messages on the Chinese social media platform Weibo criticizing Park's livestreamed words. Some of these members, such as Guangzhou Charge general manager "M4nD4R4," said that they would "henceforth not participate in any activities that [Park] participates in, including league activities, brand activities, commercial activities, media activities, exhibition games and scrims." Park's comments and apology took place before the League's opening day, and he had not played any official matches between then and the boycott's announcement.
What caused the teams to take back their boycott?
In a statement released yesterday, the Overwatch League sent out an email talking about the boycott. They said:
The Overwatch League is a global community, one made stronger by the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of our players and fans. We have discussed this matter with all teams involved and the learnings that have come from it. In the spirit of sportsmanship and continuing to deliver amazing competition for our fans around the world, the teams have agreed to resume normal activities with each other.
All five of the teams involved released similar statements confirming the end of the boycott and the League's intervention. Park, however, has not commented on the matter personally.
This isn't the first time one of Blizzard's online games have sparked controversy with China. Back in 2019, Blizzard faced heavy backlash for banning a Hearthstone player who voiced their support for the Hong Kong protests against a newly-introduced extradition bill, along with the two Taiwanese broadcasters he was talking to. Judging by how it's ended this time, it looks like Blizzard may have learned something about how to handle this sort of situation.