Something absolutely astonishingly unbelievable has happened in the Overwatch League. If you can believe it, a player has said something... wait for it... offensive!! Oh woe is me! Rue the day that this has happened! Oh the humanity! But seriously, yes; completely unsurprisingly to all of us on the outside, an Overwatch League player has said something rude.
Let's go back to a recent match between the Houston Outlaws and the Dallas Fuel Overwatch teams. The Outlaws won, at which point Austin “Muma” Wilmot used a phrase that Fuel's Felix “xQc” Lengyel often says. Lengyel hadn't even been playing in the match that the Fuels lost, so he felt as if Wilmot was sort of kicking him while he was down. During a livestream following the match, Lengyel said that Wilmot was messed up for having done what he did, at which point he proceeded to make comments about Wilmot's sexuality.
It all boils down to this: Wilmot said something that was a little insensitive, and Lengyel responded a little more dramatically than probably necessary. He apologized almost immediately, and Wilmot was a good sport all the way through about the whole thing. Both parties are guilty in their own way, and the whole thing could have probably blown over relatively easily if this had just been two streamers going at it. It was not simply that however. These were two Overwatch League sponsored players, and Lengyel's comment has landed him in some serious hot water. Not only was he suspended for the rest of season one, Blizzard has also fined Lengyel $2,000.
A simple comment has burst into an incredibly complicated issue that could have long-standing effects on the esports industry, Blizzard, and Overwatch. There will certainly be those who think that Lengyel's punishment was too severe and that will negatively impact everything. On the flip side, there will be those that support the fine and suspension of Lengyel and will see this in a more positive light. These are very black and white reaction definitions, and obviously there will be plenty of gray area. I consider myself in that gray area.
The fact remains that this situation will affect how people see esports to a degree. Even within the video game industry, negativity is a very dividing subject. And negativity within esports has the potential to be even more dividing. Some may say that it just goes with the territory, while others believe there are no excuses for such behavior. I'm more in line with those who believe there's no excuse. If you're participating in a system that is very much in the public eye, then you have to be prepared for the consequences. A very dumbed down example would be if you work for McDonald's, you're not going to show up at Burger King in your uniform. If you do, you know very well that you could be fired. A more relevant example would be barking a slur at one of your coworkers. I don't know about you, but it certainly wouldn't fly at any of the jobs I've held!
I'm not saying these players aren't under some immense stress. The Overwatch League has a ton of strict rules, regulations, and a code of conduct that their players must follow. In some regard, it must be impossibly difficult to keep all of these things in mind 24/7 when you're also following hectic work and training schedules. The same can be said of a lot of jobs though, and most people make it out just fine. In this situation, it all boils down to whether or not we can just be decent human beings to each other. Don't plagiarize and don't say awful things to someone else. It's up to these players to decide whether or not they can do it. But if events like this one keep happening, it could spell disaster for the Overwatch League in particular, but also maybe esports as a whole.