A college Hearthstone team that raised a "Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz" sign on-stream during their Collegiate Championship game last week has finally been suspended by Blizzard. With their own finals taking place shortly after Hearthstone Grand Champion Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai's now-famous protest and subsequent punishment, the American University Collegiate team jumped in to support their fellow pro.
It took only two days for Blitzchung to lose his prize money (now reinstated) and be hit with a year-long ban from Hearthstone (now six months). But for a full week, it seemed uncertain whether the US team would face similar consequences. Yesterday, the email finally came in - AU are barred from tournament play for the next six months.
That news was shared by a relieved Casey Chambers, one of AU's tournament player, via Twitter last night.
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
The official suspension appears to come as a relief for the team. They claim Blizzard acted hypocritically in slamming harsh punishments on Blitzchung, while seemingly ignoring AU's protest. Further down the thread, Chambers clarified:
"This one was pretty cut and dry. We knew what we were doing and expected the punishment. The problem was Blizzard ignoring our protest for PR reasons but going after Blitzchung."
The six-month ban echoes Blitzchung's revised sentence, reduced from a year in Blizzard president J Allen Brack's wholly unconvincing official statement. The notice to AU even echoes some of the pithy language around encouraging everyone to "share their viewpoints" and "express themselves", but oh no not like that.
American University had actually planned a far more vocal protest along the lines of Blitzchung's uproar. The team told Vice that they had planned to flood their post-game interview with pro-Hong Kong sentiments, should they have won.
"Obviously, we were the first thing on Blizzard's stream after they made the decision," said AU player Corwin Dark. "If we did nothing, we were missing a pretty big opportunity.”
While they didn't get the chance to vocalise their protest, AU had a sign on-hand in case of defeat. Regardless of suspension, they told USGamer that they've already pulled out of their remaining Hearthstone obligations, and are dropping Blizzard games entirely.