The four Chinese Overwatch League teams who recently announced their boycott of any event with Seoul Dynasty DPS player Jong-ryeol "Saebyeolbe" Park announced on Thursday that they will be ending their boycott of the player and returning to competitive play. According to their joint statement, the decision comes after they reached an agreement with Seoul Dynasty and the Overwatch League after several rounds of discussion.
"Through the active involvement of the Overwatch League, and with collaboration from the teams involved, we recently had many rounds of discussion and have finally reached an agreement on this incident," the Chinese OWL teams said in their statement. "Meanwhile, all teams have agreed that providing the best competition matches for our fans around the world is the number one priority. We will resume normal activities with each other based on mutual respect and unity, and we look forward to making our fans proud in the upcoming tournaments."
Chengdu Hunters, Shanghai Dragons, Hangzhou Spark, and Guangzhou Charge announced their boycott of Saebyeolbe on May 3rd.
Their decision came in response to comments that Saebyeolbe made on a stream regarding the freedom of speech regulation on the Chinese streaming platform Douyu. SBB also publicly supporting protesters in Hong Kong and Taiwan during that same stream, and stated that he had to be a "good dog" to say in the good graces of the Chinese audience. After he made those comments, SBB issued a handwritten apology for his statements in both Korean and Chinese.
Initially, the Chinese organizations chose not to accept this apology, but it seems that after some back and forth dialogue between all the parties, they have reached a mutual understanding.
This incident is reminiscent of Blizzard's 2019 controversy when Blizzard banned Blitzchung for making comments in support of the 2019 Hong Kong protests during an official Blizzard Hearthstone tournament stream. Blizzard banned the player citing the rules against taking any action that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”
That decision was seen as suppressing freedom of speech and bowing to China. The ban received wide publicity from gaming journalists and mainstream news alike. Ultimately, the ban prompted protests outside Blizzcon 2019 and forced Blizzard to kick off Blizzcon 2019 with an apology rather than their usual opening ceremonies.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.