Riot is trying to keep its hands clean after Blizzard banned a pro player for supporting Hong Kong protests on-camera. The League of Legends developer's esports head John Needham has issued a statement saying that Riot has "reminded" pro players and hosts to avoid discussing "sensitive issues" during broadcasts, including politics and religion. It argued that personal views should stay "separate" as there was no way they could be "fairly represented" in the space of a game tournament. There's not enough room for the patience and subtleties these subjects require, the studio said.
The company further argued that statements on its platforms could "escalate" already tense situations, putting fans and Riot staff in danger.
The position isn't likely to assuage critics. People (including US senators) have already accused Blizzard of caving in to Chinese censorship in order to avoid angering the Communist Party and lose business -- Riot's policy won't do anything to allay suspicions it's doing the same. This isn't helped by Riot's Chinese ownership. While Tencent has stakes in a number of companies, including Activision Blizzard and political speech defender Epic Games, it has complete ownership of Riot. In theory, Tencent might feel pressured to silence mentions of Hong Kong protests lest it face retaliation at home.
There's the risk of a backlash as a result. Blizzard faced an almost immediate uproar over its ban, both online and among its own employees. Riot may not have banned anyone as of this writing, but gamers might see it as just a matter of time and object in a similar fashion.