Blizzard has announced that Hearthstone (opens in new tab) Grandmaster Paul "Zalae" Nemeth will not be allowed to compete in future Hearthstone Esports events due to unspecified allegations made against him.
pic.twitter.com/Y1b4VvnbZfApril 8, 2021
"Hearthstone Esports is aware of allegations made against Americas Grandmaster, Paul 'Zalae' Nemeth," it tweeted. "Upon further review, we have suspended Zalae from competing in all Hearthstone Esports events."
Blizzard didn't comment on the nature of the allegation but it's widely believed to be claims (opens in new tab) made earlier this year by Mythgard community manager and streamer Rini that he was physically and emotional abusive during the time that they lived together. The allegations were made in January but Blizzard made no comment on them until today, one day before the start of the 2021 Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament.
In an email, Blizzard said that it does not discuss "internal eligibility decisions," but clarified that Nemeth's suspension will stand for one year. It's not clear how his spot will be filled at this last minute: There are no doubt plenty of aspiring Grandmasters who meet the qualifying criteria, but none of them will be properly prepared to take part in the event.
Nemeth’s suspension has led to some complaints, such as in this Reddit thread, that it was imposed based on unsubstantiated allegations. Radoslav Kolev of esports site Inven Global, however, said that he had sources willing to go on record about the matter, and further suggested that he believes that's at least partially the impetus for Blizzard's action:
Timeline of Zalae drama:> Blizz include him in the GM circuit, absolutely fine with his allegations> I pressure them for comment on Wednesday, Apr. 7, saying I have sources that will go on the record> Apr. 8, Zalae is suspended https://t.co/wXOXEDjz8WApril 8, 2021
"Timeline of the Zalae drama: Blizzard include him in the GM circuit, absolutely fine with his allegations," Kolev tweeted. "I pressure them for comment on Wednesday, Apr. 7, saying I have sources that will go on the record. Apr. 8, Zalae is suspended."
Casters Simon "Sottle" Welch and Dan "Frodan" Chou also weighed in, saying it would have been unfair for Blizzard to proceed with this year's Grandmasters without some acknowledgement of the allegations. Chou also emphasized that the suspension was put in place following “further review” of the allegations.
Glad that silence was broken.I don't care what your opinion is on the outcome, the season could not start without some sort of acknowledgement.They have an obligation to protect people within their space and community, and they cannot do that with silence. https://t.co/1VUlmHOF4HApril 8, 2021
Good. The timing isn't ideal, but I'm glad action is being taken. https://t.co/MhijaW1ji4April 8, 2021
Cosplayer and streamer Alkali Layke described the suspension as “absolutely the right call” in a Twitter thread, pointing out that Hearthstone Grandmasters “represent the company/game” and that Blizzard failed the entire community, and women in particular, by staying silent on the matter for months.
“As a female player attending FUTURE events I want to see these situations handled properly if I'm going to feel COMFORTABLE AT HS EVENTS (Caps needed),” she tweeted. "I'm not trying to call out anyone or push sides here. I'm just saying that if some of you still don't freaking understand why the management of this situation is important."
...sides to a story. Although it's difficult to fathom what your side would be at this moment. To current and future players...please learn from this. Please hold the highest standards of integrity. And to @PlayHearthstone thank you for finally addressing this issue.April 8, 2021
Chou expressed similar sentiments in a separate tweet (opens in new tab). "This is a matter of what HS esports stands for," he wrote. "And as a community, we value safety & draw the line in the sand here."
Hearthstone streamer Sayaka supported the suspension as well, saying it was "100% justified."
As someone who was once close with Zalae, I am on the side of the victims involved and can attest that this suspension is 100% justified. There is no place in esports for a man who abuses women. Thank you Blizzard. https://t.co/YOfg1jL3hvApril 8, 2021
As for Rini, who first brought the allegations against Nemeth, she expressed gratitude for both Blizzard's action—late thought it may be—and the support she’s received from the community.
Completely floored but I feel so heard 😭Thank you to everyone for pushing for a response and for believing in me.I am lost for words, truly. https://t.co/9Rw2Dzam6tApril 8, 2021
"Completely floored but I feel so heard," she wrote. "Thank you to everyone for pushing for a response and for believing in me. I am lost for words, truly."