Update: The American University players have told USgamer that they still don't plan to compete in Blizzard games once the suspension is up.
"Not super surprising in general," Chambers tells USG of the suspension. "We expected a punishment but I am surprised they sent it to us after giving us a TESPA match. It definitely would have been awkward for them if we had played that one."
The original story follows:
Last week, three players for American University's Hearthstone team held up a sign mid-match that said "Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizzard." It was in direct response to Blizzard's suspension of Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai over a pro-Hong Kong statement, and though they seemed to receive no punishment at the time, Blizzard has now issued a suspension for all three.
Casey Chambers, one of the three players for American University, posted the email they received from "HearthstoneAdmin" late last night. In it, Blizzard cites a violation of rule 7.1B: "... Participants may not take any action or perform any gesture directed at another Participant, Tespa Admin, or any other party or incite others to do the same which is abusive, insulting, mocking, or disruptive." The resulting punishment is six months.
The American University had told USgamer previously that it would forfeit its matches and no longer compete in Blizzard games after it appeared that Tespa, the governing collegiate body partnered with Blizzard, wouldn't be issuing any punishment. Now, however, that seems to not be the case.
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 ruling goes on to say, "Every Voice Matters at Blizzard, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the game and the competition, and to be a place where all are welcome."
We reached out to American University's players to see if they're holding true to not competing in Blizzard games, even past the six-month Hearthstone ban. In a comment to Vice, Chambers said the team knew exactly what it was doing. "No regrets," Chambers says.
All of this is part of the ongoing fallout from Blizzard's suspension of another Hearthstone player, Blitzchung, over a statement made in support of the ongoing Hong Kong protests in a post-match interview. The resulting calls for boycotts and protests caused Blizzard to "reassess" the situation, eventually lightening Blitzchung's sentence to six months.
Yet that seems to have done little to appease those angry at Blizzard. Just this week, the company canceled a launch event for Overwatch's Nintendo Switch launch in New York amid growing backlash. It's put the massive company at a crossroads of sorts, and with BlizzCon on the horizon, it's becoming questionable whether Blizzard will be able to win back some good will ahead of its big annual showcase.