Riot Forbids League Of Legends Players And Commentators From Discussing Politics On Air

Illustration for article titled Riot Forbids League Of Legends Players And Commentators From Discussing Politics On Air
Photo: Riot Games

Ever since Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai got suspended for a year by Blizzard after making a declaration of support for Hong Kong earlier this week, the issue of politics during esports streams has been a hot topic. The head of Fortnite studio Epic Games, for example, said he supports players’ right to speak out about politics and human rights. Now, however, Riot has taken the opposite approach.


In a statement on Twitter, the League of Legends developer and publisher said that pro players and commentators have been told to keep their political thoughts to themselves during official broadcasts.

“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, and otherwise) separate,” wrote Riot global head of esports John Needham. “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.”

He went on to say that Riot has fans in volatile places like Hong Kong, and as a result, “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.” In telling people to stay mum about politics, Needham said Riot hopes that League of Legends can be “a positive force that brings people together, no matter where they are in the world.”

As of 2015, Riot was fully owned by Chinese mega-company Tencent, who also owns portions of many other video game companies including Epic and Blizzard.

In this case, Riot clearly intends to remain neutral, but as Kotaku’s Joshua Rivera wrote earlier this week, video games are not neutral, and the furor surrounding Blizzard’s Hong Kong fiasco—which has led numerous players, commentators, and fans to protest—is proof of that. In making this decision, Riot is picking a side and, through its global influence, contributing to an oppressive and harmful status quo, even if it believes it’s just staying on the sidelines.

Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, streaming, PC gaming. Writing a book about streamers tentatively titled "STREAMERS" to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in the future.


So all that talk for the last few days about how Riot wasn’t asking people to not promote Hong Kong, and how Blizzard wasn’t trying to make it more difficult for people to delete their accounts - we find that, once again, that’s not the case.

Capitalism ruins everything it touches. Geopolitics and monied interests, especially international-state-backed media corporations, are bad for all of us.

Just another symptom of late-stage Capitalism as an entire country is dragged about kicking and screaming, while the reachable audiences of millions (NBA, LoL) are told to ignore the situation because some millionaires/billionaires (especially in the case of NBA) may lose some money.

How’s that freedom taste, bootlickers?