How the esports community is reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Initiatives raise millions of dollars for humanitarian relief efforts

ukraine esports

A note from the editor – February 25th 2022

I don’t know how to write this article.

It’s gone midnight as I sit down to try and produce something before bed. I’ve been unable to work pretty much most of the day today, stunned by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. I am scared and upset and angry. 

Call me a bad journalist, call me weak, but sitting down to write something that is beyond games, about actual life and death, is not something I am used to. I entered into games journalism partly to escape from the cruelties of life, but some things must be covered, and this is one of them.

It was an email I received from someone in Ukraine, directly affected by this, that managed to pull me out of my daze.

“I’d like to thank you for support – it’s really appreciated. It’s really important for us to have this story being covered.”

Thank you, you know who you are, and I’ll do my best to summarise the esports community’s reaction to the horrifying situation below, and continue to update it as further developments are made. I cannot imagine what Ukrainians are going through at this time, and I stand with you all. 

GGBET MPU blast gif - June July 2024

May 2022:

April 2022:

March 26th 2022 updates:

Riot Games makes $1m donation, launches in-game fundraisers

March 5th 2022

From March 5th to March 12th 2022, all proceeds from battle pass sales in Valorant, Legends of Runeterra, Teamfight Tactics and Wild Rift, as well as the new Bee skin line in League of Legends, will be donated to support humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.

Riot will also be donating $1m across three humanitarian non-profits: The International Medical Corps, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders and the Polish Red Cross.

Excel Esports make £10,000 donation, launch charity hoodies as part of ‘Stop the war’ campaign

March 4th 2022

UK esports organisation Excel have made a £10,000 donation, in support of humanitarian aid efforts, and have released a £50 charity hoodie, with all proceeds going to charity.

The money will go to the Disasters Emergency Committee, which aims to support displaced refugees.

There’s more info on Excel’s ‘Stop the war’ page.

Tundra also makes donation to support Ukrainian relief efforts

London-based organisation Tundra Esports announced the donation on Twitter:

ESL bans Russian orgs from Pro League

March 2nd 2022

Esports tournament organiser ESL says orgs with apparent ties to the Russian government – Virtus Pro and Gambit – will not be allowed to play in the ESL Pro League.

“We recognise that players are not complicit with this situation, and we do not think it is in the spirit of esports to impose sanctions on individual players,” ESL said in a statement. “The Virtus.pro and Gambit players are therefore welcome to compete under a neutral name, without representing their country, organisation or their teams’ sponsors on their clothing or otherwise.

“Furthermore, out of respect for the situation, we decided to pause all scheduled competitions in the CIS region and they can be played at a later point in time.”

ESL has also given paid time off for employees to volunteer for humanitarian relief and paid time off for affected colleagues.

Epicenter suspends Winline Dota 2 Champions League

March 2nd 2022

Russian esports events brand Epicenter has suspended Season 8 of the Winline Dota 2 Champions League, and says it’s against any action that hurts innocent people.

Blast will no longer invite Russian-based teams to take part in its events

March 1st 2022

Esports tournament organiser Blast, which has offices in the UK, has said that no Russian-based team will be invited to play in its events ‘for the foreseeable future’.

The news comes after its CIS qualifier, hosted by WePlay, has been cancelled.

WePlay terminates partnership agreements with companies from Russia and Belarus

Ukraine-based esports tournament organiser WePlay has published a number of statements on the situation.

It has terminated partnership agreements with companies based in Russia and Belarus, and WePlay staff are working remotely.

WePlay Esports also announced it will not be broadcasting the Russian-language broadcast of the Gamers Galaxy: Dota 2 Invitational Series Dubai 2022.

Instead, WePlay will host a Ukrainian-language broadcast of it, and the event is open for community casting coverage in Russian.

“Russian Federation attacked Ukraine. Even though it’s frightening, the people of WePlay Holding and all of Ukraine know how to maintain common sense and stay calm,” said Oleh Humeniuk, CEO at WePlay Holding.

“Work in the WePlay Holding Ukrainian office is in full swing – the office in Ukraine will continue to work remotely. At present, all the company departments, from legal and finance to studio and esports, as well as infrastructure institutions, are doing their best to keep in touch and provide partners with the information necessary to solve any issue. All WePlay Holding employees are aware of the government instructions they need to follow and continue working from home. The company keeps everyone posted on current updates affecting the workflow.

“The US office is also open as usual. The company is performing all the payments, legal and other activities in time. Thank you for your words of support and sensitivity that all Ukrainians need now.

“Together we are strong and unbreakable.”

‘We are all together in this, and together we’ll get through it’ – Navi

Esports team organisation Natus Vincere (Navi), who are based in Kyiv, Ukraine, published an open and heartfelt statement on Twitter earlier.

“It’s impossible that during this war we pretend that everything is okay. It is not. We are devastated,” Navi said. “We are all together in this. And together we’ll get through it.

“You can’t imagine how important your support is. Especially all the Russian people on the street protesting against this devastating war.”

Update – March 1st 2022:

Navi says it has cut ties with Esforce Holding:

Please pray for Ukraine’ – White-Ra

Ukrainian former StarCraft II pro player Aleksey ‘White-Ra’ Krupnyk said: “Putin is a mad dictator, it’s a shame what he’s doing. But our country, our people, are together. Big thanks for international support and please pray for Ukraine.”

James Banks helping his family in Ukraine

UK caster James Banks has been very active on Twitter around this situation – go check out his profile as he’s shared a lot of valuable links to charities you can donate to, to help with this crisis.

James Banks – whose home is in Ukraine – left the country recently, as did other WePlay casters and other esports professionals.

He’s been trying to send support to his fiancee’s family, to try to find a car and driver for a family member who needs to try get to Poland and escape.

‘Do your research on what this war is really about’

Anna Pototska, Northern Europe Valorant influencer manager at Riot Games, posted a tweet sharing her emotions and urging people to get educated on the war.

Esports orgs react to the Ukraine/Russia situation

UK org Excel, NLC org Singularity and others reacted by changing their profile picture logos to the Ukrainian colours. And Russian org Gambit Esports addressed the situation:

Esports tournament delays and changes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Riot Games delayed the VCT Valorant EMEA Week 3 games, and the League of Legends Continental League 2022 Spring Season, while the LEC continued (though without a Russian language broadcast).

Elsewhere, the Apex Legends Global Series and PUBG Mobile Pro League in the CIS region have been delayed.

Ukrainian esports players share their thoughts

Here’s a selection of tweets from CSGO pro player S1mple, G2 Arctic League of Legends support player (formerly of UK esports org MNM Gaming) and more, including a unifying speech from S1mple at IEM Katowice 2022.

S1mple also made a 3.2m Ukrainian hryvnia (£82,500) donation to support the Ukrainian army, as outlined in this video interview on the Navi YouTube channel.

France-based Prodigy Agency founder and CEO Jérôme Coupez offered a place for Ukrainian players to play.

Astralis’ Russian League of Legends player Zanzarah also shared some hate speech he received, and was met with support from the esports community.

Richard Lewis goes into detail with analysis of the situation, warns about misinformation and disinformation

If you want more content here, British esports journalist and personality Richard Lewis broadcast a few livestreams on Twitch running through Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, analysing media coverage and sharing his thoughts in greater detail.

“This will be strange new uncharted territory for a lot of younger folk, so I wanted to throw the stream live, give some background and make it educational,” Richard Lewis said. “The landscape for information about what’s going on is going to be ridiculous. And Biden needed a crisis to distract from terrible domestic policy and how things have been going in America.

“And Russia is really sophisticated when it comes to the distribution of disinformation, so you’ve got to be very mindful of that. If any streamer cites Russia Times as a source, don’t listen to it, it’s propaganda. And on the other side, there’s obviously a lot of anti-Putin sentiment, you’re going to see a lot of things happen.”

You can check out Richard’s streams here and here.

We’ll update this article with more reaction going forwards, and once again send our support to all of those affected.

More games industry developments around the Ukraine crisis

Outside of esports, the general games industry – including publishers and developers – has been announcing a raft of initiatives and donations to support Ukraine.

See this article on GamesIndustry.biz for more: Games industry rallies behind Ukraine in face of Russian invasion.

EA has removed the Russian national team and clubs from its FIFA football games:

Also, a Russian diplomat and George Galloway have been fooled by a fake media report of streamer WingsOfRedemption falsely billed as ‘first American casualty of the Ukraine crisis’.

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