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As reported last week, three collegiate Hearthstone players, who held up a sign in support of Hong Kong protesters, were not punished by Blizzard. The protest happened only days after professional player Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung received a one-year ban for a similar incident.
It seems that Blizzard has finally decided to take punitive measures by suspending the entire American University team from competitive play. The ban's justification was that the players violated the company's rules on "sportsmanship."
Section 7.1.B of Blizzard's collegiate guidelines states, "Participants may 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."
According to Blizzard, the players violated this section of the rules and have been banned for six months. This penalty is the same that the company imposed on Blitzchung, although his original punishment was a one-year suspension.
Even though Blizzard took a week to drop the ban-hammer, the players were pleased with its decision. Their whole purpose was to show that they supported Chung's stance, and the team was surprised that they did not receive a similar punishment.
Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six month ban from competition. While delayed I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules. pic.twitter.com/mZStoF0e0t— Casey Chambers (@Xcelsior_hs) October 16, 2019
"Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six-month ban from competition," player Casey Chambers said in a tweet on Wednesday. "While delayed, I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules."
The team had initially stated that they would be quitting Hearthstone tournament play due to Blizzard's apparent hypocrisy over similar incidents. It did not say if it was rescinding its decision to refrain from competitive matches.
Blizzard's actions against the Hong Kong player Chung have stirred a lot of controversy among employees and the gaming community. Staffers staged a walkout last week after the company handed down its decision against Blitzchung. Rival game company Epic also took a stab at the punishment.
Blizzard has defended itself on the issue, saying that Chungs political views had nothing to do with his suspension.
"[The] specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made," said Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack in a statement. "I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision."