Riot Warns League Of Legends Casters And Players To Avoid Politics
Riot Games has instructed players and casters at this weekend’s League of Legends World Championship group stage to refrain from discussing sensitive issues, including politics, on its broadcasts. John Needham, the global head of League of Legends Esports, issued a statement Friday to clarify the stand taken by Riot Games.
“As a general rule, we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players,”
“We serve fans from many different countries and cultures, and we believe this opportunity comes with a responsibility to keep personal views on sensitive issues (political, religious, or otherwise) separate.
“These topics are often incredibly nuanced, require deep understanding and a willingness to listen, and cannot be fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides. Therefore, we have reminded our casters and pro players to refrain from discussing any of these topics on air.”
As of 2015, Riot Games is entirely owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent.
A message from John Needham, Global Head of League of Legends Esports pic.twitter.com/5Au9rE7T86
— lolesports (@lolesports) October 11, 2019
Riot’s statement comes as Blizzard continues to struggle with a PR nightmare sparked by its reaction to former Hearthstone Grandmaster Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai’s call to “liberate Hong Kong” from China. Since then, Blizzard has faced a sustained call to boycott its games, high-profile Hearthstone figures Brian Kibler and Nathan “ThatsAdmirable” Zamora have withdrawn from Grandmasters casting in protest, and cosplayers are working to turn Chinese Overwatch character Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong protests, a potentially very awkward development leading into BlizzCon.
On Monday, Blizzard banned professional Hearthstone player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung from participating in tournaments for an entire year after he voiced support for the Hong Kong protesters. In a post-game interview at Grandmasters on Sunday, Blitzchung said, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” which triggered the company’s decision. Outside of the tournament ban, Blizzard is also withholding any winnings Blitzchung would have received from the tournament over the weekend.
Lawmakers, angry fans, and other games publishers all came out with statements and forum posts condemning Blizzard for its decision to ban a player for expressing speech unfavorable to the Chinese government.
Riot didn’t say what sort of penalties could be imposed on streamers or players who violate the edict, but given the seriousness of the situation and the very clear advance notice, I would expect that it’s not going to fool around. The League of Legends World Championship Group Stage gets underway on October 12; the full schedule is available at lolesports.com
It’s unclear whether players and casters are allowed to speak about politics — including the Hong Kong protests on their own personal social media channels.