American video-game developer Blizzard Entertainment has suspended Hong Kong-based professional gamer Chung Ng Wai after the 21-year-old used a Sunday post-game interview to show solidarity with the city’s protesters.
In an online live chat following his win at the Hearthstone Grandmasters, a Taipei-based tournament for players of its eponymous online card game, Chung, who appeared wearing eye goggles and a gas mask, said in Mandarin a slogan frequently deployed by demonstrators during the sometimes-violent protests that have rocked Hong Kong in recent months.
The stream was cut off shortly afterwards and the video subsequently taken down. Blizzard, which made Hearthstone, later wrote in a statement that Chung would receive no prize money and would not be allowed to participate in Hearthstone esports events for a period of one year for breaking a competition rule requiring players not to engage in actions that bring them into public disrepute, offend the public, or damage Blizzard’s image.
Chung told AFP that he did not regret the outburst.
Chung’s suspension comes amid a furor surrounding comments regarding Hong Kong made by high-profile sports figures. The ruckus was sparked when Daryl Morey, the general manager of U.S. basketball team Houston Rockets — easily China’s most popular NBA outfit — tweeted his support for anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong.
Morey’s tweet was later deleted, but the repercussions of his comment continue to be felt. After the NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, defended his compatriot’s right to free speech, China Central Television, the country’s state broadcaster, announced Tuesday it was suspending all broadcasts of NBA games, saying it believes “any speech that challenges national sovereignty or social stability does not belong in the category of free speech.”
Also on Tuesday, Chinese tech behemoth Tencent said it would not be showing any remaining NBA preseason games, months after extending a partnership with the league until 2025 in a deal worth $1.5 billion.
By that point, e-commerce site Taobao had already brought the Rockets back to Earth by scrubbing the team’s merchandise from search results on its online store.
Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (firstname.lastname@example.org)