Two months into its existence, Blizzard’s ambitious Overwatch League has seen a lot of positives. Viewership numbers are strong, Blizzard has managed to court big-name sponsors like Toyota, and last month the Shanghai Dragons made Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon the league’s first female player. But there’s one issue that keeps popping up: players exhibiting toxic behavior. Today, the league made its biggest statement about such behavior so far, doling out punishments to four individual players.
Dallas Fuel player Timo “Taimou” Kettunen is being fined $1,000 for using “anti-gay slurs on his personal stream,” while the Houston Outlaws’ Tae-yeong “TaiRong” Kim has received a formal warning for posting a meme about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Blizzard says it was more lenient on Kim because he issued an unprompted apology and made a $1,000 donation to the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. The LA Valiant’s Ted “Silkthread” Wang, meanwhile, was fined $1,000 for account sharing, which violates Blizzard’s ULA.
“We hope that these disciplinary actions demonstrate our seriousness.”
But the biggest punishment was reserved for the Fuel’s Félix “xQc” Lengyel, who was both fined $4,000 and suspended for four games. His transgressions included “repeatedly used an emote in a racially disparaging manner on the league’s stream and on social media,” according to Blizzard, as well as calling the league’s official broadcasters “cancer.”
This is the biggest wave of punishments from the Overwatch League, but unfortunately these aren’t isolated incidents. In January, London Spitfire player Jun-Young “Profit” Park was fined $1,000 for giving the middle finger during a match, while Lengyel previously was suspended four games by the league and fined $2,000 for making a homophobic remark about an openly gay player.
His team, the Dallas Fuel, extended the punishment, suspending Lengyel for the remainder of the league’s first stage. “No one wants to see Felix succeed more than we do,” the team said in a statement in January. “It is our hope he can return to the team with the passion, competitiveness, and focus that it takes to play in the Overwatch League.”
While the behavior has been recurring, Blizzard has been very public in terms of punishments, posting details of each infraction on the league’s official site. Whether this will be enough to curb these kinds of actions is yet unclear, but given the toxic behavior prevalent in most online games, Overwatch included, it seems likely that this trend will continue in the league’s formative stages.
“It is unacceptable for members of the Overwatch League to use or distribute hateful, racist, or discriminatory speech or memes,” Blizzard said of today’s punishments. “It is important for all members to be aware of the impact their speech may have on others. The overwhelming majority of Overwatch League players and staff are taking full advantage of the opportunity to play in the first major global, city-based e-sports league, and are rising to meet the occasion as the public figures that they are.
“We are committed to building a community around the Overwatch League that is welcoming and inclusive for all players and fans, and we hope that these disciplinary actions demonstrate our seriousness in that endeavor.”