Recently, CNN came out with a list of all the sports Russia has been suspended from. These include the Paralympics, FIFA, Formula One, International Tennis Federation team competitions and more. The esports scene has followed suit with BLAST Premier banning all Russian-based teams and Electronic Sports League (ESL) banning any team with ties to the Russian government. Russian teams were also told to make a statement on the Russia-Ukraine war in the GAMERS GALAXY: Invitational Series Dubai 2022 Dota 2 tournament if they wanted to compete.
However, some argue that these players are not responsible for the violence against Ukraine or the decisions that led to it so they shouldn’t be punished. Konstantin “Hardecki” Kozlov from the Russia-based team, Gambit, tweeted #StandwithUkraine to show support yet is still banned from competing in all these tournaments. Does Hardecki deserve to be punished despite not doing anything wrong and showing support? No. However, the situation is much bigger than just the players.
The action carried out by the esports organizations and sports organizations may be unfair but what they’re doing is showing support for Ukraine and reprimanding Russia for its actions. The contrary would be for these organizations to remain silent in their opposition to Russian teams, which would have brought a different wave of criticism. I argue that inaction by these organizations is a much worse possibility than placing harsher mandates. An omission could be construed as agreement with Russia’s actions. The action itself is not what is important but the fact that there is not inaction.
In addition to these bans, many game producers have begun to fundraise for Ukrainian humanitarian aid. CD Projekt Red, known for its hit game Cyberpunk 2077, donated hundreds of thousands to Polska Akcja Humanitarna, a Polish organization helping Ukrainian refugees by supplying food and other services. Destiny 2 developer, Bungie, and Riot Games have also started to donate proceeds to humanitarian aid.
With esports becoming such a big entity and revenue growth projections reaching $1.8 billion this year, it’s important that the scene is showing action and support for Ukraine. The industry is displaying its willingness to take part in worldwide issues that affect people outside of just players and viewers. Esports teams are also taking part with ESL Pro League teams raising $125,000 to help those affected by the invasion. Team Liquid, based in Netherland, opened up their apartments to accommodate any displaced esports players after receiving a request from a non-Liquid player for help.
Many more competitions are planned for the year and those will show how other esports tournament organizations and teams plan to respond to the conflict.