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Blizzard has handed six-month bans to US university students who held up a sign reading ‘Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz’ during the Hearthstone Collegiate Championships last week.
In its ruling, the publisher said players GiantDwarf, TJammer and Xcelsior had violated section 7.1.B of the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship rules “for engaging in behavior disruptive to the official esports broadcast”.
The players were disqualified from the ongoing tournament and won’t be eligible to compete in Hearthstone esports until April 8, 2020.
After being informed of the ruling, Casey Chambers, aka Xcelsior, tweeted: “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.”
Blizzard recently attracted widespread condemnation for banning Hearthstone esports player Ng ‘Blitzchung’ Wai Chung for one year and withholding $10,000 in prize money he’d won after he expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement during an official livestream.
Responding to the backlash almost a week after the initial event, Blizzard claimed its business interests in China had “no influence” over the decision, although it conceded it had reacted “too quickly” and said it would reduce Chung’s ban to six months and let him receive his winnings.
Chung later said he was “grateful” Blizzard had reconsidered its position and that he’d be “more careful” when declaring his political views in future.
In response to Blizzard’s actions, Digital rights non-profit organisation Fight for the Future is planning to stage an “epic day of protest with hundreds of other gamers who care” outside the Anaheim Convention Center in California on November 1, the first day of Blizzard’s annual fan convention BlizzCon.