Several United States Senators and Members of Congress have co-signed an open letter directed at Activision Blizzard’s CEO in opposition of the company’s decision to ban a competitive Hearthstone player. The open later signed by lawmakers such as Senator Marco Rubio and Member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez urged Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to reconsider the ban of Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai. Blizzard has issued multiple statements on its ban and has reduced the player’s punishment, though those easements have done little to protect the company from the community’s vitriol.
The open letter in question can be seen here with signatures from Ocasio-Cortez, Rubio, and three other parties speaking out against Blizzard’s ban levied against Blitzchung. Joining those two are Senator Ron Wyden and Members of Congress Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski. This letter referenced China’s “growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech” and called out the company for allegedly not sticking to one of its values.
“Your company claims to stand by ‘one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,’ yet many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzard’s decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values,” the open letter said. “Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms. Indeed, many gamers around the world have taken notice of your company’s actions, understandably calling for boycotts of Activision Blizzard gaming sites.”
The statement about people calling for boycotts of Activision Blizzard, specifically when it comes to Blizzard’s games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch, is no exaggeration. People have been sharing examples of their boycotts by cancelling their subscriptions to games like World of Warcraft, and pretty much any thread on social media that comes from Blizzard or deals with their games in part brings up the Hearthstone bans at some point.
The lawmakers closed out the letter by saying Blizzard must decide “whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values” or “give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access.” It also urged Blizzard to “reverse course” on their decision to ban Blitzchung. It’s worth noting that the letter says that Blitzchung was banned from Hearthstone’s competitive events a year which was initially true, but that ban has since decreased to six months. The player also got their prize money back after Blizzard initially took it away.
Another point often brought up by the community is that Blizzard’s annual BlizzCon event is quickly approaching. It begins on November 1st, and it’s hard to imagine a world where this controversy doesn’t weigh heavily on the event.