In the wake of the fallout over Blizzard’s controversial decision to punish a Hearthstone player who voiced support for Hong Kong, League of Legends creator Riot Games has reminded its esports players and casters not to discuss sensitive topics during broadcasts. A statement from John Needham, the global head of League of Legends esports, said sensitive situations like the one in Hong Kong “are often incredibly nuanced” and can’t be fairly represented in the format provided by Riot’s esports broadcasts.
Riot’s statement regarding the current state of affairs in the esports community was shared by the company’s esports account on Twitter and can be seen below. In it, Needham speaks to the intricacies of sensitive issues including those pertaining to politics and religion and says Riot wants its professional participants focused on the game at hand “as a general rule.”
“As a general rule, we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players,” the statement said. “We server 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.”
A message from John Needham, Global Head of League of Legends Esports pic.twitter.com/5Au9rE7T86— lolesports (@lolesports) October 11, 2019
This statement follows Blizzard’s actions taken against a pro Hearthstone player who spoke out during an official event’s stream and called for the liberation of Hong Kong. Blizzard cited a specific rule in its competitive guidelines to justify the one-year ban levied against the player and the rescinding of all of his prize money, but Riot’s statement only references the “general rule” and not a specific part of its competitive guidelines.
Riot told IGN that cases where players or casters talked about sensitive topics on air would be handled “based on the circumstances.” We’ve reached out to Riot to see if the statement in the tweet above is backed by a specific rule governing League’s competitive scene.
The statement about sensitive matters discussed during broadcasts follows another from earlier in the week when Riot addressed the name of one of its teams. Hong Kong Attitude is a team competing in the World Championship tournament this year and is sometimes referred to by its full name while other times is abbreviated to just “HKA” by casters. Riot said in a statement that it’s not intentionally shortening the name and that it routinely alternates between teams’ full and abbreviated names.
Epic Games also weighed in on the Hong Kong situation this week by saying it would never penalize its players for opinions on politics or human rights issues voiced during official broadcasts.