Today, renowned Hearthstone caster, player, Youtuber, and Twitch streamer Brian Kibler announced that he would no longer cast the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournaments. He informed Blizzard of his withdrawal in order to protest the recent suspension of Blitzchung, following the latter's post-game rallying cry for Hong Kong independence which has continued to gather steam today.
Kibler wrote about the reasoning for his withdrawal on his personal website, where he normally posts videos, articles, and decklists for Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering. In his statement, which you can read in full here, Kibler wrote,
I certainly never expected that my position in the Hearthstone community would lead to me making a statement on sensitive topics regarding international relations, but I have always viewed my strange place as a public figure in gaming as an opportunity to try to make the world a better place in whatever way I can, so here we are.
... I won’t pretend to understand either the intricacies of the geopolitical situation in China and Hong Kong or the full extent of Blizzard’s business interests there, but to me this penalty feels like it is deeply rooted in both. The heavy-handedness of it feels like someone insisted that Blizzard make an example of Blitzchung, not only to discourage others from similar acts in the future but also to appease those upset by the outburst itself.
That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with. When I learned about the ruling, I reached out to Blizzard and informed them that I no longer feel comfortable casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon. I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision. Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward.
Kibler, who himself has competed in several professional-level tournaments for Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering and been a frequent caster for Hearthstone in the past, was scheduled to cast for the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon 2019, which is taking place November 1-2 this year.
Brian Kibler is far from the only person to voice his displeasure at Blizzard's handling of the Blitzchung situation. After Ng Wai "Blitzchung" Chung declared his support for the Hong Kong protesters during an interview at the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament, Blizzard dished out a year-long suspension to Blitzchung and severed ties with the two casters interviewing him. Outside of China, a fervor arose over Blizzard's harsh reaction to Blitzchung's statements and alleged willingness to appease China's authoritarian government practices, eventually snowballing into calls to boycott Blizzard games. Kibler may be one of the most impactful voices to protest so far, as his departure creates a tangible gap in Blizzard's plans.
[Header image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caeCex1XH58]