Virtus.pro responded today to ESL’s decision that they, and other teams with ties to the Russian government, would be banned from all ESL events until further notice. The Russian-based org strongly hit out at the move, decrying it as aggression, before going on to claim they are "facing a prime example of 'the cancel culture'", in a tweet that has been widely mocked by the CSGO community.
The org has also stated they will allow their players to compete as "the Bears", following ESL’s statement that the players would not be banned, but simply prevented from representing their organizations. ESL’s stance received widespread community support at the time it was announced.
CSGO community mocks Virtus.pro
Initial responses to Virtus.pro’s statement were almost universally negative, with many readers pointing out that this has very little to do with cancel culture, some calling for a total ban from all events, and even some pros weighing in to mock VP’s stance. Instead of being about cancel culture, the move has a huge amount to do with VP’s ties to Alisher Usmanov, and latterly VK, the Sogaz Group, GAZPROM, and more. Dust2.us have covered the relationships between Gambit/VP and those in power.
The one positive, that both sides seem to agree on is that the VP players are innocent victims in this scenario and should be allowed to compete as neutrals if they indeed feel that way inclined. The degree of support the org will offer to a team that cannot wear their banner will be interesting to observe, and this marks a difference between esports and sports, where governing bodies have no choice but to ban the players and teams following significant backlash against attempts to let Russians compete as neutrals.
ESL and Virtus.pro are yet to comment further on the topic, but we will keep the article updated with any developments. For now, though, it looks as though the door is closed to Russian-owned or funded brands looking to compete at Major CSGO events, and that could have a disastrous effect on the CIS scene should Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine not abate in the very near future.