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Riot Games directs casters and players not to discuss politics on air

Global head of League of Legends esports says it wants "to keep broadcasts focused on the game"

Riot Games has issued a statement detailing its stance on the matter of political statements during its on-air League of Legends broadcasts.

In the lead-up to the League of Legends World Championships, global head of League of Legends esports John Needham said in an official statement that the company wants to avoid political, religious, or other "sensitive issues" during its on-air broadcasts.

"As a general rule, we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players," the statement reads in part. "We serve fans from many different countries and cultures, and we believe this opportunity comes with a responsibility to keep personal views on sensitive issues (political, religious, or otherwise) separate. These topics are often incredibly nuanced, require deep understanding and a willingness to listen, and cannot be fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides. Therefore, we have reminded our casters and pro players to refrain from discussing any of these topics on air.

"Our decision also reflects that we have Riot employes and fans in regions where there has been (or there is risk of) political and/or social unrest, including places like Hong Kong. We believe we have a responsibility to do our best to ensure that statements or actions on our official platforms (intended or not) do not escalate potentially sensitive situations."

This statement comes as a response to Blizzard's year-long ban of pro Hearthstone player Chung 'blitzchung' Ng Wai for expressing support for protests in Hong Kong on-air following a match. Blizzard's actions have sparked widespread backlash, with US senators, Blizzard-focused subreddits, Twitter communities, Blizzard's own employees, fellow pro Hearthstone players and casters, and many others speaking out.

Epic Games also weighed in earlier this week, with CEO Tim Sweeney saying the company would not take action against professional Fortnite players or content creators who spoke up on political issues.

Riot Games is fully owned by Chinese gaming company Tencent. Tencent also holds a 40% stake in Epic Games and a 5% stake in Activision-Blizzard, though the latter also partners with NetEase for the release of numerous IP in China including Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch.

GamesIndustry.biz reached out earlier this week to other publishers who run (in whole or in part) esports events on an international stage -- Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Microsoft, EA, 2K, and Valve -- for their stances on the issue. So far, Ubisoft has declined to comment, and none of the others have responded.

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