A professional South Korean Overwatch player who plays for the esports team Dallas Fuel has opened up about living in the United States and experiences with racism, saying, "being Asian here is terrifying."
Overwatch League team Dallas Fuel, which is owned by esports organization Team Envy, operates in Texas, and signed Eui-Sok Lee, who goes by "Fearless," in November of last year. According to a representative from Dallas Fuel, all the players practice at Team Envy's headquarters, which is located near downtown Dallas.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas has been particularly deadly for people who contract the disease, with the state infrastructure doing little to stop its spread across Texas. The last year has also seen a rise in anti-Asian violence, after former President Donald Trump often referred to the disease as the "Chinese Virus," fomenting anti-Asian racism among his base.
Fearless's description of his experience of anti-Asian racism in Dallas paints a stark picture for what it is like to be Asian in America right now. In the video, which was taken from a livestream, Fearless said that because he wears a mask in public because of the ongoing pandemic, people come up to him and cough on him.
"People keep trying to pick fights with us. And there's even people who cough on us," he said in the clip, translated by the manager for Florida Mayhem, another Overwatch League team. "They call us Chinese and then harass us. The racism here is unspeakable."
Fearless also says that he tries to wear his team jersey in public so that people will harass him less.
Yesterday, Team Envy CEO Mike Rufail went to Twitter to respond, saying in a video that they first became aware of the harassment that members of Dallas Fuel were facing the day prior.
"We've had players from all over the world come play for Team Envy," Rufail says in the video. "Everybody is included here. If you're one of the best professional gamers in the world or one of the best coaches in the world, you should feel like you can represent the city that we represent with pride. For our players to get here, and only be here for a couple months and have to deal with these kinds of issues is absurd."
In the clip, Rufail also condemns racism and calls on people to call out instances of racism that they see in their communities.
Additionally, a spokesperson for Dallas Fuel told Waypoint that Envy employs a full-time "mental health coach" for players, and also explained some of the accommodations available for players adjusting to life in the United States.
"Specifically for the Fuel this year the team hired and promoted Helen Jang to assistant general manager after she had previously helped with interpreting for some players. Helen (who is a Dallas local) has been instrumental in helping the players and coaching staff acclimate since arriving in Texas in early March," the spokesperson said. "In light of recent events the organization is working to increase security measures for players but I cannot provide any specifics at the moment."
Blizzard, the developer of Overwatch, also condemned anti-Asian racism in a statement to Polygon. "We stand with the Asian community, our employees, and our players and are working across our organization, including esports, to do our part to combat hate and ignorance," they said.