It all started with one Hearthstone player being banned, and now lawmakers are urging Blizzard to reverse its decision.
In a letter to the CEO of Activision Blizzard, five lawmakers urged the company to reverse the ban and promote American values.
Earlier this month, Blizzard banned pro player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung because of comments he made about the Hong Kong protests during a broadcast. The company received backlash over the decision that even employees walked out of its offices and other players also spoke out about Hong Kong in support of Blitzchung.
Although Blizzard has already explained its decision and even cut the ban from a year to six months, the company is still being criticized for seeming to bow under pressure from China.
Letter From The U.S. Congress
In a letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Robert A. Kotick, Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio, along with Members of the Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski expressed their concerns over the move and urged the company to reverse its decision. In the letter, lawmakers describe the decision to ban Blitzchung as “particularly concerning,” citing China’s growing tendency to pressure American companies to help stifle free speech.
Calling Blizzard a “pillar of the gaming industry,” they urged the company to stand by its claims of supporting the expression of individual thoughts and opinions, noting that its decision could affect gamers who want to use their platform to support and promote human rights.
“As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values －like freedom of speech and thought －or to give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access,” the lawmakers wrote.
It is worth noting, and the lawmakers did note it in the letter, that Blizzard benefits from the growing e-sports market in China and that it is partly owned by Tencent, a major Chinese company. Only recently, League of Legends developer Riot Games, which is owned by Tencent, also urged players and casters to avoid sensitive issues during broadcasts.
On the other hand, Epic Games, another company partially owned by Tencent, announced its support for players who speak out about politics and human rights.
It remains to be seen whether the letter or any other efforts to sway Blizzard will prompt the company to reverse the decision.