During a post-match interview at Hearthstone Grandmasters 2019, pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai spoke out in support of the liberation of Hong Kong. Blitzchung's statements in turn led Blizzard to remove the Hong Kong-based player from the event, rescind his prize money, and suspend him from competitive play for the next twelve months. Indeed, these actions have not been received well by many, including the first Hearthstone World Champion, James "Firebat" Kostesich.
Speaking with Brian Kibler, a popular Hearthstone caster that resigned following the punitive action taken against Blitzchung, during a recent episode of streaming series Omni/Stone, Kostesich indicated that the severity of the player's punishment is "ridiculous." He continued with indication that he believes that "there's probably something else going on," suggesting that Blizzard is looking to "make an example" of Blitzchung.
This is an idea that Kibler previously put forward in the public explanation of his aforementioned resignation, and it is not the only thing that Kostesich and Kibler agree upon. More specifically, they both indicate that Blitzchung did violate the rules established for Grandmasters with his statements, suggesting that they both believe that some penalization is appropriate. However, the level of punishment that Blizzard has chosen to enact, including banning Blitzchung, is what Kostesich and Kibler seem to find problematic.
"I think they're totally in the wrong to punish him that much: absolutely murdering the guy's Hearthstone career, or attempting to anyway," Kostesich continued. The former Hearthstone World Champion further indicated that he would like to see Blizzard "support their players more" and that he does not feel good about seeing the company "using a player as an example."
Certainly, those that exist in the world of Hearthstone are not the only ones voicing concerns about Blizzard's actions against Blitzchung. Earlier this week, for instance, US Senator Marco Rubio criticized Blizzard, indicating that the situation is an example of "China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally." It remains to be seen if these types of statements will ultimately force Blizzard to reconsider its stance with Blitzchung, but it may be challenging for the company to regain loyalty after what has occurred this week.