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Riot tells League of Legends pros and casters to avoid sensitive topics on air

With the 2019 League of Legends World Championship group stage drawing near, Riot Games has clarified their stance on political statements during official broadcasts.

John Needham, the global head of League of Legends esports, set the matter straight in a written statement today, directing professional players and casters to avoid discussing "sensitive issues" such as personal political and religious views on air.

"As a general rule, we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players," advised Needham. "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 follows a week-long controversy that saw Blizzard Entertainment come under fire for suspending Hearthstone player Ng Wai "Blitzchung" Chung after he expressed his support of the Hong Kong protests in a post-match interview. The company cut ties with the two casters who conducted broadcast, stripped Chung of his tournament winnings, and banned him from Hearthstone esports for 12 months. Outrage and disappointment followed, sweeping across Reddit, Twitter, and other mediums, with Hearthstone pros and casters, U.S. Senators, and Blizzard's own employees speaking out against the decision. Meanwhile, netizens around the world continue to call for a boycott of the company.

Earlier this week, the CEO of Epic Games took a stand for free speech, promising that Fortnite players and casters would not be punished for expressing their views on air. It seems Riot has gone in the opposite direction, an unsurprising turn of events given that they are fully owned by Chinese gaming giant Tencent. The company also holds a 40% stake in Epic Games and a 5% stake in Activision-Blizzard.