The Overwatch League is dissauding participating organizations to dissuade use of the “Pepe” meme.
“The Overwatch League discourages the use of symbols and imagery which are associated with or used by hate groups, including Pepe the Frog,” an Overwatch League spokesperson said. “At Blizzard Arena, it’s our policy that fans comply with this policy. We likewise ask the same of Overwatch League teams and players on their social-media accounts.”
While it’s unlikely that most Overwatch League players intended to use the Pepe meme in an offensive way, it’s wider usage are important to consider.
Originally a cartoon character created by artist Matt Furie, Pepe was appropriated by the alt-right in 2015 — and the Anti-Defamation League, a United States–based civil rights group, added Pepe to its database of hate symbols in 2016 albeit conceding that not all uses of the meme are used for hate.
The Overwatch League’s Code of Conduct are not public, though a summary of the information was released in late February.
The rules state that players and staff should “not engage in any activity or practice which brings him or her into public disrepute or scandal” and should “not engage in any form of harassment or discrimination.” Overwatch League staff have “broad discretion” over what counts as a violation.
According to Kotaku, a Pepe poster was confiscated at the Overwatch League debut on Jan. 10 when audience members were reportedly using the poster to cheer on the Dallas Fuel before a staff member and security guard removed the sign.