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Overwatch League pro flips the bird, but is it a violation of the rules? (update)

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We got a kerfuffle on our hands

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Overwatch League
Profit flipping the middle finger during an Overwatch League match.
Twitter/Sylosa

The mildly offensive actions of a pro Overwatch player has raised questions about player conduct in Blizzard’s new Overwatch League.

Joon-yeong “Profit” Park, a player on London Spitfire, started his appearance in Overwatch League yesterday by giving the middle finger to the camera in front of him. The moment can be seen in the Twitch clip below. It appears that Profit didn’t mean to throw up the finger maliciously. Stylosa, a YouTuber who serves as the team’s “British consultant,” tweeted that Profit was responding to the audio team in the dugout area and forgot the camera feed was live.

It’s difficult to determine if Profit broke the Overwatch League’s rules because, well, the League hasn’t posted any rules yet. Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzel told The Telegraph yesterday that while there is a code of conduct players are expected to abide by, those rules haven’t been publicized yet.

“There are so many things that have to get done in order to launch the league,” Nanzer said. “We definitely want to publish the rules on the website — if you go to NBA.com you can download the rules, right? We want to have the same thing — it’s something we’re working towards, I don’t know the exact timeline, but it’s something that we’re working on, and I think we’ll have it published within the next few months.”

The issue, as viewers and fans have pointed out online, is that without a public code of conduct, it’s difficult to know what the appropriate response or punishment is for certain acts. Take the case of xQc, a professional Overwatch player and notable Twitch streamer who was suspended this past weekend and fined $2,000 for making a homophobic remark to an openly gay player on his own, independent stream.

Blizzard released a statement at the time condemning the remark, noting it “takes standard of player behavior seriously, whether during league play or otherwise.”

The question now is whether Profit will face consequences — albeit far less severe — for using what some may see as an offensive remark on stream. One Twitter user said despite it possibly being an honest slip up, as a professional athlete, Profit should be held to certain standards.

“It was viewed by thousands and many of them children,” they wrote on Twitter. “Highly offensive and rude. He needs to be held accountable. Once on stage you must be in a professional mindset and respectful!”

Stylosa said he believes Profit will receive a fine for his behavior — akin to a fine professional League of Legends player Hai Du received for doing the same thing in 2015. Stylosa remarked in a video published on YouTube today that even if Profit didn’t mean to flip the middle finger on purpose, Overwatch League couldn’t just overlook it.

“Profit will get fined by Overwatch League,” Stylosa said. “That is 100 percent fact. You can’t sit there and go like this [middle finger gesture] on the screen. [Overwatch League] is supposed to be like the English Premiere League, like the NFL, baseball, the NBA. Now you think about the players in those leagues. They do not sit there and make ridiculous comments like xQc did and expect to get away with it. They do not go like this [middle finger gesture] on camera and get away with it.

“Overwatch League has a very, very stringent set of rules — mainly you can’t go on the stage and go like this [middle finger gesture]; he shouldn’t have been doing that.”

At the time of this writing, Profit hadn’t been fined by the Overwatch League, nor faced any punishment from his own team. It seems unlikely that Cloud9, the company that owns London Spitfire, will take harsh action against Profit. Cloud9 CEO Jack Etienne tweeted out a photo of himself holding a Photoshopped version of an earlier photo, which now displayed Profit’s middle finger slip. He jokingly compared it to Du’s own situation.

The bigger conversation that needs to be had is about transparency from Blizzard and the Overwatch League about what is expected from players both on- and off-screen. Do players have morality clauses that instructs how they are expected to behave on their own independent Twitch streams or YouTube channels? How are fines and suspensions handled?

If the Overwatch League and its players want to be taken seriously as professional athletes, they need to be held accountable — and viewers need to know what those conduct rules are.

Polygon has reached out to Blizzard for further comment on the story.

Update: Profit released a statement on Twitter, apologizing for his actions. Profit said he will “take the time to deeply reflect upon what I say and do to make sure nothing like this takes place again,” but did not confirm if that means he won’t be playing. His full statement can be read below.

Update 2: Jack Etienne confirmed Profit was fined $1,000 by the Overwatch League for “breaking a league rule regarding obscene gestures on camera.” Etienne said that “all parties understand these actions were not made in malice nor intended to be on broadcast but the rules are clear. Spitfire will not be contesting the ruling.”

An official statement from the Overwatch League reads:

On Wednesday, January 24, London Spitfire player Jun-Young “Profit” Park made an obscene gesture on camera during a match, violating the Overwatch League’s Official Rules. As such, the player has been fined $1,000 by the league. The Overwatch League takes standards of player behavior seriously and is committed to responding swiftly when violations occur.