League of Legends is hands-down the biggest esport around. Developer Riot Games is doing its best to make sure it stays that way, being as inclusive as possible and issuing harsh punishments on players who behave in racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful ways. Now, one of its own analysts has found himself in the middle of a controversy over racism after several comments he made this weekend about blackface.
It started when Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels and his friends decided to cosplay for Karneval as employees of Globo Gym, from the movie Dodgeball. One friend wanted to be Mi’chelle, the black member, and decided to use blackface as a part of his costume. Voorspoels tweeted out a picture of his friend, causing a backlash from his followers and fans of the game.
Blackface is exactly what it sounds like: White people using paint, shoe polish, makeup or anything else to make their skin look darker. It’s most closely associated with the film and theater in the 19th and 20th centuries, where white actors portrayed blacks as fools and criminals. Coming as it did from eras of vicious, entrenched racism, blackface helped establish harmful, longstanding stereotypes that persist to this day. In most countries, its usage is avoided at all costs.
Germany, where Riot’s European League Championship Series studios are based, has a particular cultural problem with blackface, an issue both well-documented and ongoing. Voorspoels, like many other Europeans, sees the issue as primarily American in nature:
Ignorance is one thing, but to equate the entire cultural memory of oppression and slavery among the black populace in the U.S. and across the world as simple “butthurt” demonstrated that Voorspoels was perhaps still missing the point. He later added a more nuanced TwitLonger post about the issue, saying that he intended no harm, and that he didn’t want to be mistaken for a racist. He added that it was all a misunderstanding, and that he “fell victim” to Twitter’s 140-character limit.
However, he also talked about how blackface was simply not a “big red flag” like it is in the United States, and that he was insulted that people would call him a racist based off one tweet. In short, he thinks his actions were fine, if a bit insensitive to his global audience.
If by now you have unfollowed me, i’m perfectly okay with that actually, I stand by everything I do.
Voorspoels’ role within the League of Legends pro scene is a bit nebulous now that he no longer is a part of North American squad Evil Geniuses. However, he remains a professional analyst featured in broadcasts of Riot’s League Championship Series, and is a professional streamer signed on with North American team Cloud9. His Twitter page is adorned with the logos of Cloud9 sponsors like Logitech, HTC, and nVidia.
Riot declined to comment on Voorspoels tweets, and there’s no hint the company plans to punish him.
Update 2/17/15 5pm CT: Voorspoels has released another statement, apologizing that fans were upset and that he’s done research and reflection in the time since his initial tweets. “I think i did make the mistake of “defending” myself improperly,” he says, adding “the usage of the word “butthurt” was plain dumb and shouldn’t be used, especially in such a sensitive debate. For that I would like to apologize as well… I grew defensive instead of taking a step back and looking the bigger picture.”
Hey guys, We’re now a day later and some of you may not be aware but i’d like to issue another statement in regards to the controversy around a picture I uploaded and comments i made after. Especially in light of a recent article released by the DOT.
Context: http://www.dailydot.com/esports/krepo-blackface-league-riot/ My initial twitlonger reply: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sknbdi
It’s been a day and i’ve actually done some research and reflected on what happened. I completely understand why a lot of my global fans got upset given the cultural implications & history of blackface. And I would like to apologize to anyone that felt that way.
However still stand by the fact that there were no malicious intentions involved. Yet there was a great deal of ignorance on my part.Mostly due to the difference in cultures. And after feeling attacked I think i did make the mistake of “defending” myself improperly. I agree with the DOT article that the usage of the word “butthurt” was plain dumb and shouldn’t be used, especially in such a sensitive debate. For that I would like to apologize as well. I can’t change my intentions, because they were good & lighthearted, literally just trying to make a friend happy. I can however change how I react to these things and not offend others in doing so. I’ve learned that lesson and will use it in the future. Note to self: Don’t tweet out rash reactions out in the cold on your phone, instead take some time to reflect.
I feel the overall tone of the article is however set to put me in a bad light and I think that’s rather sad. “However, he also talked about how blackface was simply not a “big red flag” like it is in the United States, and that he was insulted that people would call him a racist based off one tweet. In short, he thinks his actions were fine, if a bit insensitive to his global audience.” I just liked to think that my fans knew me better than to immediately think I was mocking such a sensitive subject KNOWINGLY.
Therefore I grew defensive instead of taking a step back and looking the bigger picture I resent the DOT’s implication of me thinking my actions were fine. By misusing the quote ” If by now you have unfollowed me, i’m perfectly okay with that actually, I stand by everything I do.” I meant that my intentions were pure & by no means meant for harm. Obviously the situation in itself could & should have been handled better.
Honestly I think it all boils down to how you want to approach this situation, if you truely want to make me out to be this horrible person, I think you can find your ammunition. But i’d like to have the benefit of the doubt here. Just wanted to shed some light on what happened.
Once again i’d like to apologise to anyone I have offended. Both with my actions and reactions. Know that there was no harm meant yet at the same time I understand if people were, rightfully so, upset.
Screengrab via YouTube