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Following the pro-Hong Kong protest statements from professional Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai and Blizzard Entertainment’s suspension of the player, ESL’s co-CEO has reportedly told employees not to discuss the Hong Kong protests on social media; under suspicious circumstances due to a large investment from Chinese streaming service Huya.
ESL (formerly Electronic Sports League) is an esports organizer, and cited as the world’s largest esport company. It was founded in 2000 and was recently valued at $425 million.
Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) is reporting that ESL’s co-CEO Ralf Reichert sent a Slack message on October 9th (obtained by HKFP) to over 700 employees, telling them not to discuss the Hong Kong protests publicly and on social media.
“All of you might have heard [about] the political discussions and strikes surrounding the situation in Hong Kong, China. As a global company being active in many countries around the globe, we naturally do abstain from political discussions and setting the best example by living our values. Therefore, we would like to suggest to not actively engage in the discussion, especially on social media.”
This message comes under suspicious intentions, as on September 2nd ESL announced a partnership with Chinese streaming service Huya (backed by Chinese tech giant TenCent). Huya in turn pledged to buy $30 million in ESL shares.
HKFP contacted ESL, reportedly asking if they were “concerned about its China market, and whether it respected free speech.” A spokesperson for ESL replied, informing HKFP that the company had a company policy on social media.
“Mr. Reichert’s internal message on Slack was a reminder to ESL employees about the general social media policies that have been in place for many years; that we do not use ESL’s brand or platform for personal political statements, and to show respect for colleagues with views different than our own. ESL’s team members are of course free to harbor personal views on private social media accounts.”
Other video game companies are releasing statements in regards to what they will and will not allow e-sports players to do. Riot Games Global Head of League of Legends Esports John Needham publicized that casters and players had been asked not to discuss “sensitive issues” during broadcasted tournaments.
Casters then seemingly stopped themselves using the words “Hong Kong” during the League of Legends World Championships 2019 even when it was in a team’s name. It should be noted while ESL have been involved with League of Legends tournaments before, they were not involved in the 2019 World Championships.