Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was originally published.
Dallas Fuel assistant coach Justin “Jayne” Conroy said Wednesday that he was directed to delete a tweet that was critical of punishment levied by Activision Blizzard on a HearthStone player who voiced his support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest movement.
Jayne, via Twitter direct messaging, declined further comment. Activision Blizzard and Envy Gaming, owners of Overwatch League franchise Dallas Fuel, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Activision Blizzard said Tuesday it kicked a Hong Kong esports pro out of a tournament and seized his prize money after he voiced support for the protest.
The company also said it suspended Ng-wai Chung, known as Blitzchung, from the Hearthstone Grandmaster card game for a year.
Jayne, in his since-deleted tweet, said he recognizes Blizzard’s rights to enforce its rules before condemning the “censorship and severity of consequences.”
Chung’s offense was to shout “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” during a post-game interview on the weekend with two Taiwanese “casters,” or hosts, who ducked under their desk, apparently not wanting to be associated with the slogan used by protesters in the semiautonomous Chinese city.
Under the game’s rules, players can be removed for behavior that results in public disrepute, offends the public or damages its image, Blizzard said, adding that the two hosts were also fired.
Chinese authorities generally do not officially comment on the myriad acts of censorship carried out on the Internet and in other forms every day.
The Daily Beast reported that a small group of Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout Tuesday to protest the company’s punishment of Chung.
Chung’s ban came on the heals of comments made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who tweeted show support for the anti-government protesters before backtracking.
Morey also deleted his tweet.
A short time after Morey posted that statement, the NBA said it was “regrettable” that the deleted tweet offended many in China. And all that followed several companies in China, including some of the NBA’s major business partners there, lashing out over Morey’s original tweet.
Morey tweeted an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” referring to the four-month-old protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. That led to Houston owner Tilman Fertitta turning to Twitter to say that Morey does not speak for the Rockets, and sparking an outcry that included the Chinese Basketball Association — whose president is Yao Ming, the former Rockets star center — saying it was suspending its relationship with the team.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was trying to find a middle way as the league faced a firestorm sparked by Morey’s tweet.
On a visit to Tokyo, Silver said he and the league are “apologetic” that so many Chinese officials and fans were upset, but also said he isn’t apologizing for Morey’s tweet.
“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.