Many members of the Hearthstone community -- Players and Casters alike -- have taken to Social Media over the past few days to voice their opinions on Blizzard's decision to ban Grandmasters competitor: Blitzchung. As we all know by now, Blitzchung was banned for 1 year and stripped of his Grandmasters winnings for voicing his support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong during his winner's interview this past weekend.
Before we continue, we at HearthPwn would like to say that we recognize that this has rightfully so become a sensitive topic for much of the Hearthstone community. The political and human rights aspects of this situation are very real life things and far outweigh what one would consider "normal" for a website built around a digital card game. While we encourage you to discuss the reactions below, we do ask that we keep this as civil as possible. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on this matter -- whether it's the Players and Casters listed below, or members of our community. We've been fairly lenient on the discussion of this matter so far, but we will not tolerate personal attacks on any individual based on their opinions.
Casters - Admirable, Sottle, Raven, & Darroch Brown
Admirable has stepped down from his position as caster for Grandmasters, Master Tour: Bucharest, and Blizzcon. He stated that without Blizzard being able to prove to him that they stand behind their core value of "Every Voice Matters", he can no longer continue casting. You can read his full statement here.
Quote from ThatsAdmirable
I will not be a part of the broadcast team for Hearthstone for the remainder of this Grandmaster season, for the Masters Tour in Bucharest, or for BlizzCon.
Blitzchung's actions to support Hong Kong speak to me far more than I could have imagined. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, and to make sacrifices in the process. His actions are inspiring to me, and I support him wholeheartedly.
For me, this is a large part of my livelihood. This is my passion. This pursuit has been my life, and I've been lucky that I've been able to make it a career. But I cannot compromise my conviction. Without change that would convince me that Blizzard will uphold their core value "Every Voice Matters", I cannot continue casting this game.
Sottle stated that he completely supports Blitzchung's right to protest and free speech. While he may not agree with the actions of his employer, he wishes to remain on the casting team supporting the game he's grown to love. You can read his full statement here.
Quote from coL_Sottle
I fully support Blitzchung's right to protest and have immense sympathy for his cause and for the plight of the Hong Kong people. What he did was incredibly brave and my heart goes out to him and everyone else fighting for Democracy.
However, in light of the recent relevations that one or more casters will be stepping away from Hearthstone, I would like to affirm that I fully intend to fulfill my contracts with Hearthstone Esports and am open to work with them in the future.
I do not have to agree with the actions or policies of any employer, partner, or service to continue to be affiliated with them. My views are my own, and remain unchanged and uninfluenced by this decision or by Blizzard or Hearthstone Esport's actions.
Raven tweeted a very similar reaction. While disagreeing with the actions of Blizzard, he also states he will honor his contracts and continue working for them. He sites the long lasting relationships between himself, colleagues, and friends. You can read his full statement here.
Quote from RavenCasts
In regards to the events of Blitzchung's interview, I support his right to protest and cannot even fathom what it is like during the events going on in Hong Kong. He, and the people of Hong Kong, have my sympathy during this time. I truly hope this situation can find a positive resolution that ensures the safety of the people.
Although I do not agree with the decisions that have been made by Blizzard, I will continue to fill my ongoing contracts with the Hearthstone team which include finishing Grandmasters this weekend. I have the utmost respect for the Hearthstone Esports team who are not only my colleagues, but my friends, and will look to continue to work with them in the future.
Darroch also stated he'd be honoring his contractual obligations and will be casting at Grandmasters. Much like the rest of the group he says he's saddened by the choices that have been made by Activision-Blizzard, but has immense admiration of the decisions made by Admirable and Brian Kibler. His full statement is here.
Quote from DarrochBrown
I would like to start by saying that I have nothing but admiration for Blitzchung for his choice. It was a very brave thing to do in standing up for what he believes in. The people of Hong Kong deserve justice and I support everyone fighting for democracy and freedom anywhere.
I also have immense admiration for Kibler and Admirable for their decision. They are some of the best people I know and will continue to inspire me long into the future. I appreciate how difficult of a choice it was for them.
However, when it comes to my own position as a Hearthstone caster, I plan on fulfilling my current obligations and continuing to cast Hearthstone in the future.
I am saddened by the choices made by Activision Blizzard and do not agree with them, but hope that anyone reading can understand that I can disagree with their choices and still be affiliated with them.
Soon after the punishments were handed to Blitzchung, Hearthstone Esports was back on stream with a Tespa event. During the broadcast, members of the American University team briefly held up a sign reading "Free Hong Kong. Boycott Blizz.". A decision was made not to punish the students. When they were scheduled for their next tournament matchup, they subsequently withdrew citing "hypocrisy in how Blizzard treats different regions". Their full statement can be found here.
Quote from Stertstego
TESPA kept us in the tournament and gave us another match.
This shows Blizzard's hypocrisy in how it treats different regions. They are hesitant to suppress free speech when it happens in America, on an English language stream, but will throw casters' and players' livelihoods under the bus if they are from Hong Kong or Taiwan. It should also dispel the idea that Blitzchung was punished for bringing politics into Hearthstone, because our message was clearly political and we weren't touched. Blitzchung was punished because China was watching.
To clarify one point, our protest was in no way comparable to Blitzchung's. He, and all Hong Kongers, are putting so much more on the line than we did. Unlike him, we also suggested boycotting Blizzard, while his message was purely in support of human rights. Yet he is the one Blizzard targeted.
Players - Kripparrian, Amnesiac, & DisguisedToast
Kripp publicly called for Blizzard to "reconsider their position".
Quote from TSM Kripparrian
I want to be clear that I support those protesting in Hong Kong. With such a large part of their country pushing for change, they are, and deserve to be on the right side of history.
I haven't been involved with competitive esports Hearthstone for years now, but Hearthstone for me is much more than their esports division and their recent poor decision making. I invite Blizzard to reconsider their position. Sure, they are in the entertainment space, so they want to keep anything that isn’t about Hearthstone out of their official broadcast, but the penalty on Blitzchung and the casters seems just too over the top. All of us who have spent the best part of our lives on Battlenet expect better out of Blizzard.
Amnesiac followed suit, voicing his displeasure and calling for Blizzard to reconsider.
Quote from Amnesiac_HS
As a player in the Grandmaster League, I support democracy, free speech, and the right of people in Hong Kong and around the world to assemble in protest, and I do not support Blizzard or anyone else playing a role in silencing of these views.
I recognize that my decision to speak up may have consequences, but I believe it's important to stand for what you think is right, and stand for the rights of others when they can't necessarily do so themselves. I love Hearthstone and competing in Grandmasters, and it is a huge part of my life, but there are some principles that are worth fighting for. I hope Blizzard will reconsider their position and apply the principals reflected in their own mission statement.
DisguisedToast also asked Blizzard to reconsider -- albeit in a typical DisguisedToast fashion.
Quote from DisguisedToast
Hearthstone streamers are being pressured to stop streaming Hearthstone due to the Blitzchung drama, but that's financially unrealistic for them.
So I'll make this offer instead.
BLIZZARD, I will START playing Hearthstone again if you reconsider your position about his ban.