“The suspension heard ’round the world” keeps generating news. One week after lightening the discipline handed down to Hearthstone pro Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung for his statements supporting the protests in Hong Kong, Blizzard is still being hammered on the PR front, and now Congress is getting in on the act. In a rare bipartisan move, five members of Congress have penned a letter addressed to Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, calling for his company to “reconsider your decision with regards to Mr. Chung.”
The letter comes from the office of Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and is co-signed by Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Representatives Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. It calls Activision-Blizzard’s decision “particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government’s growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech,” and referenced other cases of the Chinese government intimidating American companies, such as Apple and the NBA, as part of China’s “campaign of intimidation.”
The letter goes on to call out how Blizzard’s core value of “one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions” runs counter to the actions taken against Blitzchung. It references the one-year suspension handed out to Blitzchung, perhaps not being fully aware of the reduction in his sentence that was announced last Friday. Still, I’d wager that any capitulation is probably seen as too harsh to the letter’s authors, who call Activision Blizzard “a pillar of the gaming community” whose actions “could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedom.”
For all that, however, it’s not as if Congress has any direct power to tell a business what to do … not yet, at least. The same could have been said about loot boxes two years ago, and the uproar over them that was kicked off — at least in American circles of government — by a state representative from Hawaii, and we all know how that’s been going.