Riot Games instructs casters, players not to discuss 'sensitive issues'

With teams, including Hong Kong Attitude, beginning play this weekend in the group stage of the League of Legends World Championship, Riot Games issued a statement saying, "we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players." Provided by Riot Games

Riot Games has instructed players and casters at this weekend's League of Legends World Championship group stage to refrain from discussing sensitive issues, including politics, on its broadcasts.

John Needham, the global head of League of Legends Esports, issued a statement Friday to clarify the stand taken by Riot Games.

"As a general rule, we want to keep our broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players," Needham said. "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, or otherwise) separate.

"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."

On Wednesday, Riot Games denied allegations that it had asked casters to avoid a political controversy by referring to the team Hong Kong Attitude with the abbreviation HKA.

"We want to correct some confusion that we are seeing regarding our coverage of Hong Kong Attitude," Riot Games spokesman Ryan Rigney tweeted Wednesday night. "As you can see from our official @lolesports twitter account, we refer to their team interchangeably by both their full name and their tricode abbreviation HKA, as we routinely do with all the teams in our ecosystem."

Rigney followed that initial posting Wednesday night with a series of tweets.

"To make this explicit as possible, we aren't telling anyone to avoid saying 'hong kong.' We'd just rather the team be referred to by its full name," Rigney tweeted. "There's been some confusion internally about this as well and we're working to correct it."

Needham expanded on Hong Kong in his release, as well:

"Our decision also reflects that we have Riot employees and fans in regions where there has been (or there is risk of) political and/or social unrest, including places like Hong Kong. We believe 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."

The political situation in Hong Kong, where anti-government protesters have been clashing with police, has spilled over into the world of sports and esports.

Blizzard Entertainment suspended Hong Kong-based Hearthstone player Chung "blitzchung" Ng Wai for his public support of protesters during a postgame interview Sunday.

Epic Games -- the developer of Fortnite -- said Wednesday that it will take no action should players or others make similar statements.

"Epic supports everyone's right to express their views on politics and human rights. We wouldn't ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics," an Epic Games spokesperson told The Verge.

--Field Level Media