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Riot Games has released a statement advising League of Legends casters not to discuss sensitive issues during this weekend’s World Championship Group stage. This decision comes in the wake of Blizzard’s Hong Kong controversy, where Hearthstone pro player Blitzchung was banned and two broadcasters were fired.
The message comes from John Needham, Global Head of League of Legends Esports, and is already getting heated reactions from the community.
“As a general rule, we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players,” the statement reads. “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.”
The statement stresses the nuanced nature of the subject at hand, and how it requires a “deep understanding and a willingness to listen,” asking League of Legends casters and pro players to “refrain from discussing any of these topics on air.” He also stated that these topics can’t be “fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides.”
Still according to the message, Riot Games has employees and fans in regions that may be subject to “political and/or social unrest” including Hong Kong. Therefore, the LoL developer is hoping that no statements or actions, voluntary or not, will contribute to the escalation of sensitive situations.
Riot Games is owned by Tencent since 2011, and many players were quick to associate this statement with the Chinese company. Tencent has a 40% share on Epic Games, with founder and CEO Tim Sweeney saying that his studio “supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights.” He added that “Tencent has always been a supportive partner of Epic and we’re happy with the relationship,” and concluded by saying that “in all of our experience they’ve never been an instigator of US-China tension or a conduit for inappropriate influence on companies they invest in.”
A message from John Needham, Global Head of League of Legends Esports pic.twitter.com/5Au9rE7T86
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) October 11, 2019