Hearthstone pro suspended after Blizzard becomes aware of 2019 sexual assault conviction

Jon "Orange" Westberg
(Image credit: Jon "Orange" Westberg)

Following his suspension from competitive Hearthstone play, Jon "Orange" Westberg has issued an apology for a 2018 incident of sexual assault, saying that he is going to "step away from the scene for some time and evaluate things."

Westberg first reported the suspension on May 17, saying that he was banned due to a "mistake" in his past. He said that he was unaware that a suspension was being considered prior to being notified of its imposition, and asked for time to address the situation. He did that today in a lengthy message on Twitlonger, in which he said that he is not looking for "forgiveness or sympathy," but wants to provide an explanation to his fans.

He declined to discuss the incident in his apology, but a judgment document provided by Swedish website Lexbase reveals that charges of rape and "sexual harassment" were brought against him in 2018. The term "sexual harassment" appears to be the result of Google Translation: The related section of the Swedish Criminal Code, which is available in English, refers to the charge specifically as "sexual molestation," which "applies to a person who exposes themselves to another person in a manner that is liable to cause discomfort, or who otherwise molests a person by word or deed in a way that is liable to violate that person's sexual integrity." 

The complainant in the case, who is not named, alleged that after a night of drinking with Westberg and two other friends, Westberg attempted to force himself on her while she was asleep. Westberg admitted that he had put his hand under the complainant's bra while she was asleep, but denied claims that he was on top of her or had forced his hand into her pants.

The court ruled that both Westberg and the complainant were "credible," but because of the unclear memories arising from the consumption of alcohol—enough to cause both to vomit before the incident—and the lack of other evidence, rape charges against Westberg were dismissed. The sexual assault charge was upheld in a 2019 conviction, however: The court ruled (via Google Translate) that the complainant had done nothing to give Westberg "reason to assume that the sleeping and drunk [complainant] was interested in some form of sexual action or closer intimacy with him," and that his actions "violate[d] her sexual integrity."

Westberg was also convicted of "minor drug offenses." It's not stated in the report or Westberg's apology whether the incident took place after a Hearthstone competition.

Westberg acknowledged that the publication of his conviction will cause confusion and possible trauma for victims of sexual assault. Otherwise, his apology is primarily focused on explaining the circumstances leading to his life's "lowest point." 

"I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues but instead of seeking out therapy I turned towards several self-destructive behaviors," Westberg wrote. "I never had the intent of hurting others but several underlying issues together with me delving deeper and deeper with these behaviors led to me hurting someone else immensely and that’s my biggest regret in life.

"Sadly it all had to come down to something this drastic for me to finally seek help. The legal process which took about a year is the most traumatic event of my life so far. I came to understand during it how much pain I inflicted on someone else and that there was no one else to blame but myself for it and that I would have to re-evaluate myself completely."

Westberg said that after the conclusion of the legal case, he moved back in with his parents and began seeing a therapist, who helped show him that he "had built up a poor understanding of boundaries so far in life." He also said he's been reading stories from women in esports and using their experiences to reflect on his past actions, and that while he has not publicly acknowledged his actions prior to this, he has attempted to address them privately.

"I worked very actively on this for years now, but did so in my private life since me and other people in my life like my family and doctors deemed that I wouldn't be able to handle the aftermath of me going public with it," he wrote. "Seeing people speak about me this way now, while it is justified I can’t help but to feel disheartened by it too."

Reactions to Westberg's apology are split: Many of the responses from followers on Twitter seem supportive, or at least willing to grant him the benefit of the doubt given that he's already been punished by the Swedish legal system through the imposition of fines, legal fees, and damages to the complainant. The Hearthstone subreddit is more overtly critical of the timing of the apology—Westberg said he didn't come forward earlier because he was advised against doing so by his therapist and doctor, who wanted to ensure he was "stable" enough to handle the consequences—and of the fact that he kept his conviction hidden while condemning other Hearthstone pros accused of abuse. 

A number of high-profile Hearthstone figures also took issue with Westberg's apology, and the fact that he kept his offense hidden for so long while being vocally critical of other players facing misconduct charges. 

Blizzard declined to comment on the reason for the ban, telling PC Gamer that it does not "discuss internal eligibility decisions." Westberg effectively confirmed that it was due to his sexual assault conviction in his apology, though, saying that he is "devastated" by the decision but accepts it as the consequences of his actions.

"In the bigger picture my competitive ban is not even comparable to the pain I feel seeing the community I’ve been part of talk about me in this way," he wrote. "While I haven’t shared everything in my life I genuinely tried to do good for this community all this time and it has been my whole life the past eight years.

"To conclude this. I’m gonna step away from the scene for some time and evaluate things. This is both for me being able to process all of this and also to give the people who are hurting from this some time to heal without being reminded of it by my presence. I am not sure if I’ll be back since I know things can never go back to how they were now. I loved my job as a streamer and I don’t really have anything to fall back on but carrying on knowing how people see me now I don’t think I’d be able to bear that or have this community deal with those feelings towards me."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.