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College  Hearthstone  team hit with 6-month ban after showing 'Free Hong Kong' sign

College Hearthstone team hit with 6-month ban after showing 'Free Hong Kong' sign

October 16, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

One week after the original infraction took place, Blizzard has issued bans to the members of the American University Hearthstone team that held up a "Free Hong Kong" sign during a stream as a show of solidarity with the player that was punished for saying similar during a Hearthstone event earlier in the month.

“Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six-month ban from competition,” tweeted Casey Chambers, a member of the American University Hearthstone team. “While delayed I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules.”

The email from Blizzard shared in Chambers’ tweet levies a 6 month ban on participants for breaking a rule that says “participants must not take any action or perform any gesture directed at another Participant, Tespa Admin, or any other party or incite others to do the same which is abusive, insulting, mocking, or disruptive.”

Chambers and other team members displayed a sign that read “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz” during a live stream of the American Collegiate Hearthstone Championship. However, while the reaction to Blitzchung’s live-streamed “liberate Hong Kong “comment was a swift 12-month ban, this is the first disciplinary action levied on the American University Hearthstone team since their stream on Thursday.

Initially, the silence from Blizzard led to the team forfeiting the next match in the tournament and remove itself from future events and telling USGamer that it saw the differences between how Blizzard handled the two situations as “hypocritical” and evidence that “as soon as the messaging is out of the view of China they don’t care about 'political' messaging."

Outside of the original ban doled out to Blitzchung (and the two casters also featured on the stream), Blizzard’s reaction to the resulting public outcry has been noticeably delayed. It took the company until Friday October 18 to release a statement about its actions the preceding weekend and the outcry that followed. Likewise, it took American University team took nearly one week to hear word of any repercussions.

In last week’s statement, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack lessened the severity of the punishments for those involved in Blitzchung’s interview, and said that neither China nor Blitzchung’s specific views factored into its decision.

“The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision,” wrote Brack. “We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same.”

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