Natus Vincere CS:GO player Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev has called for unity among the esports community in wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. s1mple, Ukrainian-born himself, took over the microphone after his team received the Intel Grand Slam award at the IEM Katowice opening ceremony.
"I want you to know that esports is outside of politics," s1mple began. "All our players, all players from different teams, and all of you have nothing to do with government decisions. My whole career I played with Ukranian players, I played with Russian players, and I played with American players. And all of them: great guys."
s1mple continued by talking about Na'Vi's lineup, comprised of two Ukrainian players, three Russian players, and a Ukrainian coach. "Right now, I stand with my real friends. We win together and we lose together. All of us want peace for Ukraine and for [the] whole world. All of us [are] scared."
He underlined that esports should provide an environment that brings people together, saying, "All of us need to show [an] example in this tournament, for the whole world. We need to stay together as a unit with our friends, with our fans, with everyone who is gonna watch this tournament. We all need to stay humans first."
Following Russia's aggression upon Ukraine, several Russian esports players have dealt with harassment and xenophobia purely because of their nationality. League of Legends player Nikolay "Zanzarah" Akatov Tweeted a screenshot of hate speech he had received. Earlier today, CIS-based organization Gambit released a statement that their players were being harassed as well.
With his statement, s1mple, widely regarded as one of the greatest players to ever grace the game, used his platform to alleviate those tensions. He closed his speech by expressing his hope that everyone could enjoy IEM Katowice for the tournament it is.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.