Over the past few years, harassment and racism towards Asian people in the U.S. has continued to rise. Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks violence against the community, recorded more than 3,795 incidents since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — with a new wave of violence this year highlighting racism in this country.
During a Twitch stream this week, Dallas Fuel player Lee “Fearless” Eui-seok spoke about the racism he and his team members have experienced while training in Dallas. Lee, who is South Korean, discussed living in the U.S. during the pandemic, in a state that has rolled back pandemic restrictions — including a mask mandate — while COVID-19 continues to spread, with new surges of disease variants popping up all around the country.
i dont know if i'm "stepping out of line" for translating something about what another team's player is experiencing— swingchip (@swingchip930) April 6, 2021
but here's the full translation of that Fearless clip.
please see some of what OWL players and staff are facing as Asians in America. pic.twitter.com/LZWvnRkuAx
“Being Asian here is terrifying,” Lee said, according to a translation from Florida Mayhem manager Jade Kim. “I think Koreans living overseas should be careful. The racism here is no joke.”
He described particular incidents during which Dallas Fuel players, wearing masks, were approached by people without masks, or who had removed their masks, to cough on the players. Lee said the harassment the players face is “basically every day.”
Lee continued: “It’s pretty severe. And they try to scare us.” He added that he often wears his Dallas Fuel jersey in public, rather than regular clothes, to signal that he’s part of a team; he said people harass the players less when they’re wearing their uniforms.
Overwatch League’s Paris Eternal general manager Kim Kyoung Ey posted on Reddit that she also faced similar experiences in Dallas. “Generally made me stop shopping at the local supermarkets and just get groceries online,” she wrote.
Though anti-Asian racism has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not new. “Anti-Asian racism may have surged during the pandemic, but it’s been happening for years, fueled by the idea of Asian Americans as ‘perpetual foreigners,’ or people who aren’t perceived as fully American,” Vox writer Li Zhou wrote in March. The recent increase in violence has brought anti-Asian racism to the forefront, triggered by a a series of attacks on elderly Asian people in the U.S, as well the Georgia shootings that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at three Atlanta-area spas.
Reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by almost 150 percent in 2020, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSU San Bernardino and reported by Vox. In response, several organizations have begun raising funds for victims and their families, as well as for Asian American communities worldwide. A list of some of these organizations is available on Vox.
Dallas Fuel has not responded to Polygon’s request for comment.
Update: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson provided the following statement to Polygon:
At Activision Blizzard, we condemn racism in the strongest possible terms. We stand with the Asian community, our employees, and our players and are working across our organization, including esports, to do our part to combat hate and ignorance.
Update (April 7): Dallas Fuel owner and Envy Gaming CEO Mike Rufail published a video on Twitter on Tuesday addressing the racism players had described experiencing in Dallas. “I am deeply saddened by the situations some of our Dallas Fuel players have been put in while walking the streets here in Dallas, TX,” Rufail tweeted alongside the clip. “This is a great city in a proud state. This isn’t something we should be proud of at all and should all pitch in to change it.”
Rufail said Envy is doing “everything [it] can” to make its players feel safe. “I’m really sorry to our players who had to go through that and have to deal with that in our country,” Rufail said. “It’s absurd.”
I am deeply saddened by the situations some of our @DallasFuel players have been put in while walking the streets here in Dallas, TX. This is a great city in a proud state. This isn't something we should be proud of at all and should all pitch in to change it. pic.twitter.com/Sq7MGlco50— Mike Rufail (@hastr0) April 6, 2021
Dallas Fuel assistant general manager Helen Jang added that Rufail has “emphasized that the players’ safety is our top priority since day 1,” noting that there “will be a solution to ensure that the players are protected.”