Taking Out The Trash Talk: Moving Forward From Dota 2's Racism Problem

ESTNN takes a look at the Dota 2 controversy that keeps coming back and how parts of the community are taking action.

Toxicity in the Dota community is not exactly a new topic. It’s a problem that isn’t unique to Dota 2, but the game has still managed to garner something of a reputation for it.

Discussions have swirled for years on social media, in tweets and reddit threads, about the problems in pubs. And it’s more than just bad sportsmanship, sexism and racism often rear their ugly heads in chat. Every player will experience it to some degree.

But what does it mean for the community when those players are pros?

Trash talking history

Trash talk in Dota can encompass a wide range of chat. Friendly banter and chat wheel spam, are usually welcome in most pubs. But sometimes, it crosses a line from banter to browbeating.

There’s been more than one occasion where one of Dota’s premiere players has had to publicly apologize to the community thanks to harsh words taken too far. And in most of those occasions, it’s been racial slurs that have caused the controversy.

Back in 2019, OG’s Sébastien “Ceb” Debs came under fire for comments he made about Russian players during a pub game. Meanwhile, former TNC player Carlo “Kuku” Palad found himself benched thanks to his in-game use of racist language toward Chinese players when the Government of Chongqing officially banned him from attending the WESG Grand Finals.

Excerpts of pro player pub chats made the round on GitHub, and the community went back and forth over the issue, with many coming to the conclusion that reactions such as Ceb’s were part and parcel of playing a high stakes, competitive, team game with literal strangers.

But racist trash talk has reared its head in the Dota 2 community again. Putting the conversation back on the table.

2 players, 1 slur

Two Dota 2 pros have recently been called out for their use of a racial epithet toward another pro player.

Both times the target of these slurs was SA player Andrew “Jubei” Evelyn.

Last week, South American team Latam Defenders suspended Rivera “Aretes” Perez for racist remarks he made toward Jubei in a pub game. Aretes also found himself out in the dry for the remainder of BTS Pro Series Season 5: Americas. With the organisation banning him from participating in the event.

With such punishments meted out to Aretes so swiftly, it was something of a surprise to see Jose Leonardo “Pandaboo” Padilla Hernandez of No Ping land himself in hot water for the exact same issue. Less than a week later.

While Pandaboo apologized on Twitter for his unnecessary and racist outburst, the fact still remains; this isn’t a new problem, and apologies only go so far to fixing it.

BTS GoDz speaks out

As the news about Pandaboo began to circulate, Beyond The Summit Co-founder and well-known Dota commentator, David “GoDz” Parker posted a tweet.

“We see you.” The tweet said, “And we want nothing to do with any of you in our tournaments.”

These were pretty powerful words addressing an issue that has persisted in the community, perhaps for too long.

ESTNN reached out to GoDz to chat about how BTS plan to keep their own tournaments free of racist toxicity.

“As a general rule, we will look into any current incidents that involve players who are competing in our active or upcoming tournaments.” Parker explained. “We don’t believe in treating players differently based on the tier of team they play on or any other factors.”

“Every incident is dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” Parker said, detailing BTS’ process for investigating and determining punishments. “We look at a number of factors once we’ve validated the information we receive. Things such as the player history, the severity of the incident, the intent by their language, and many other factors are all considered when we punish players.”

In this instance, he confirmed the org had “…suspended both Aretes- and Pandaboo from BTS competitions through to the end of BTS Pro Series 5.” Although he did confirm that after the suspension, things are fair game. “Neither player is ineligible to play future BTS tournaments.” He said, “At this time we don’t intend to permanently ban players from BTS competitions.”

Moving forward

But bans and suspensions aren’t the only way forward for BTS. According to Parker the orgs main focus right now leans “towards team and player education,” rightly noting that the shift in format this year has brought “many more players emerging onto the professional scene”. A change due in large part to “the DPC Upper and Lower division being put into the spotlight.”

Parker also talked about plans to “publish guidelines and a BTS code of conduct for our events in the near future.”

It’s great to see movement like this from TO’s. Education is an important step toward ensuring fair play and good sportsmanship. Not just in the DPC, but in the whole Dota 2 community.

Feature Image: ESPAT/ManLok Fung

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