Lee, a professional sports player and member of the Overwatch League’s Dallas Fuel team, was asked by a fan during a livestream how it has been for him since he moved to Texas this year. “Being Asian here is scary, serious,” he said in comments translated from Korean. “People are still trying to choose to fight with us. Every time they see me, it’s like Americans want to come up to us, and there are even people coughing at us. … This is my first time ever experiencing racism. And it always is – it̵
The video, taken from Amazon’s live streaming service Twitch, was translated by Jade Kim, 26, manager of Florida Mayhem, another Overwatch League team. Kim said when she first encountered the clip from Lee, “it just gave me a whiplash.” (Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
Since coming to the U.S. in college, Kim said she has seen her fair share of racism, and hearing Lee’s comments reminded her of “the shock when I myself had first experienced racism in the United States.” Greeting from South Korea, where being Asian meant being part of the majority, Kim said she was doubly shocked to arrive in America and learn about racially motivated harassment and see the reactions of Asian Americans who were tired and retired after having seen racism over extended periods.
“My first reaction after reaching out to people I knew in the Dallas staff was just for not saying anything else,” said Kim, who often goes by the name “swing chip” on social media. “But with everything that was going on in the United States recently, I could not let myself fold this away either, so I ended up translating the clip and posting it.”
Kim explained his motives and said, “Yes, I’m not a Dallas employee, and yes, I do not know fearless personally, but I am also Korean. I am also Asian, ”she said. “I felt it gave me enough reason to speak up and spread the word about it.”
Kim recalled an incident in February 2020 on a commercial flight from Florida to Philadelphia that involved player Ha “Sayaplayer” Jung-woo, 23, as he competed, playing with the Overwatch League’s Florida Mayhem.
Telling the incident for The Post, Ha, who is now a pro “Valorant” player at the organization T1, said a white passenger lifted his phone high up and took several photos of the Mayhem team throughout the flight while Ha tried to lurk . Ha then remarked that she texted someone who said there were so many “Chinese” on the flight and sent photos of the team. The person she texted responded with a swear word and then said, “Kill them all.”
Ha told The Post in comments translated from Korean by Kim that by that time he had already experienced several racist incidents and just thought, “she was extremely pathetic.”
“I only found out later,” Kim said. “But the sadness and anger I felt he had experienced was, to put it mildly, quite strong.”
Lee, often referred to by his player name “Fearless”, signed with Dallas Fuel on November 7 last year during the Overwatch League offseason. He had previously played for the Shanghai Dragons and arrived in Dallas, where Fuel trains and plays, early this year. On the stream, Lee began to tell how people he saw tended not to wear face masks, while he and his team members wanted to wear face masks. Then he shifted gears to talk about the racially motivated harassment he faced.
Lee described being cursed for his run and said he noticed he was treated differently depending on whether he was wearing his team jersey or plain clothes.
“I wear my team jersey around on purpose,” he said on the stream. “If I wear my jersey, I think they are aware that we are part of a team, so they do not bother us so much. But if I wear my everyday clothes, they run up to us, harass us and run away. ”
Activision Blizzard, which operates the Overwatch League, responded in a statement late Tuesday. “At Activision Blizzard, we condemn racism in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said. “We stand with the Asian community, our employees and our players and work across our organization, including esports, to do our part to combat hatred and ignorance.”
Mike Rufail, founder and gaming manager of Envy Gaming, which owns and operates Dallas Fuel, tweeted Tuesday night that he was “deeply saddened” by what his players were facing as they walked the streets of Texas.
While Dallas Fuel members were trained in what to expect when they arrived in their new city and how to prepare for people who started conversations with them, they were not trained in how to respond to racist harassment.
“It’s a little shocking to be so close to our front door here,” Rufail told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “When they landed here, we were not actually preparing them for specific events like racism.”
The incidents that Lee described occurred around the Victory Park area and the American Airlines Center, home to the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and NHL’s Dallas Stars, when crowds would typically gather for sporting events, Rufail said. He added that the team has informed Victory Park and their building security team to monitor the area more closely.
In some sports communities, especially in the Overwatch League, many players are of Asian descent and some do not speak English fluently. It could lead to a sense of disconnect between English-speaking fans and Asian players, noted Kim, Florida Mayhem manager.
“It’s part of our job to show people that the players on the team, even though some of them do not speak the best English and they are Korean national players, live here in the United States now. They are like you and me, they are like everyone else, ”said Rufail. “We will continue to … do a lot more content around the team to show their personality, and I think people who may have a bit of a, we would say discriminatory personality, might understand a little better that our Korean players can connect to them in a way they may not have known before. ”
Other prominent figures in the sports industry have also experienced racially motivated harassment.
“I’m not surprised, but it still hurts to hear,” said Harrison “Salme” Chang, 26, a professional “Valorant” player who previously finished second at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, about his reaction to the virus cut. Lee.
Chang said in his online social media interactions that random people have left him with racist comments about having small eyes, eating dogs, or commenting on “ching chong,” a racist slur that fools Asian languages.
“I’ve been experiencing these comments for as long as I’ve been online,” he said, adding that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic originating in China has provided “extra fuel” to people who already disliked Asians.
Ashley Kang, 31, owner and interviewer for Korizon Esports, a League of Legends-centric media and YouTube channel, also recalled receiving racist comments. Kang is based in Seoul but comes from New Zealand.
“I remember a dozen occasions where I was called ching chong by strangers while walking the streets of New Zealand and Berlin,” she said. “Yet it should no less normalize my own or the fearless experience.”
Some sports organizations have issued statements against recent anti-Asian attacks. Andbox, which owns the New York Excelsior team in the Overwatch League, said on March 16: “Racial discrimination has no place in our world, but members of the Asian community in New York and around the country continue to be victims of hate speech and actions . We stand proudly with this community and reject this behavior. “Then listed organizations that supported Asian communities.
Kang said that while racism is a topic that extends beyond esports, “the esports industry can also do its own thing to stand up to the current situation and promote change. I respected a lot of esports organizations for releasing #StopAsianHate statements. Visibility matters and is often the first step to bringing about change. ”
Esports executives stressed being proactive.
“Several e-sports companies may need to go through one of these situations to do something about it,” said Rufail, founder of Envy Gaming. “Certainly at Envy, even when we do not review things like this in the future, we will try to create awareness in certain areas for this, just because I see it starting to settle the drug throughout this country. And maybe it has been for a long time. ”