A professional Philippine eSports player was banned on Tuesday from a million-dollar tournament in China, embroiling the world of competitive gaming in controversy as it faces threats of a boycott.
Carlo "Kuku" Palad, who plays for Philippine team TNC Predator, has been barred from competing at the upcoming Dota 2 Chongqing Major after allegedly making a racist taunt during a game that angered the vast Chinese gaming community.
Dota 2, a multiplayer battle-arena game that is one of the biggest in the fast-burgeoning eSports scene, said the Chinese government was not behind the move.
"While there is a lot of anxiety around his attendance and problems it may create, we do not believe his presence creates a real security threat," it said in a blog post.
"However, it seems like TNC is currently not taking proper responsibility for their actions, coupled with the attempted cover-up by the team, so we are now stepping in directly and banning Kuku from attending this event."
On Sunday, TNC said on Twitter that Kuku faced being stopped from entering China and alleged that Chongqing city officials might cancel the prestigious tournament should he attend.
TNC said it was "mulling our options" and could pull out.
"TNC and Kuku fully understand the gravity of the mistakes committed, which is why we have exhausted every avenue to talk with all parties involved, especially the aggrieved," it said in a statement before his ban was confirmed.
Some prominent members of the eSports community have rallied to Kuku\’s defence, saying that he had apologised and deserved a second chance.
Several eSports casters and analysts have threatened to boycott the tournament, including Grant "GranDGranT" Harris, who wrote on Twitter: "If Kuku isn\’t allowed to play at the major I refuse to cast officially for the major.
"We all make mistakes and 1 mistake should not forbid you from playing at a tournament that potentially decides your whole career."
ESports host and commentator Paul "Redeye" Chaloner commended Valve Corporation — the Dota 2 developer — for taking action.
"I think they should do so more often and take more of a lead on esports," he tweeted. "I do however wish it hadn\’t taken all the drama for it to happen."
TNC did not immediately respond for comment.
A growing number of foreign companies and individuals have found themselves under pressure over racism and cultural insensitivity in China, with Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana the latest to be widely condemned over racially offensive social media posts last month.