Tag Archives: penalty

Referee banned from working NHL games after being caught on live mic wanting to call penalty on Predators

Referee Tim Peel has been banned from officiating future NHL games after he was caught saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Nashville Predators during a game on Tuesday.

Peel was wearing a microphone for the Detroit-Nashville game Tuesday night and was heard making the comment over the TV broadcast.

“It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a [expletive] penalty against Nashville early in the,” Peel was heard saying before his microphone was cut off after Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson was called for a tripping penalty at 4:56 of the second period.

Peel worked the game with referee Kelly Sutherland. The Predators were called for four penalties and the Red Wings three in Nashville’s 2-0 win.

WARNING: Clip contains profane language

“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game,” Colin Campbell, the league’s senior executive vice-president of hockey operations, said in a statement issued by the NHL Wednesday. 

“Tim Peel’s conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve,” he said in the statement. “There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or his intention, and the National Hockey League will take any and all steps necessary to protect the integrity our game.”

The NHL’s statement was unclear on whether Peel had been fired, but TSN reported Wednesday he planned to retire following this season.

NHL players weigh in

Nashville’s Matt Duchene on a local radio appearance Wednesday wondered aloud what would have happened if Detroit scored on the power play, won the game and the Predators missed the playoffs by a point.

“The crazy part is he was talking to [teammate Filip] Forsberg in that clip, and he told our bench that,” Duchene said. “Really bizarre. I don’t think there’s a place in hockey for that.

“You’ve got to call the game. I’ve always been frustrated when I’ve seen even-up calls or stuff like that. If one team is earning power plays, you can’t punish them because the other team is not.”

Even-up — or make-up — calls are when referees will penalize one team to compensate for what they perceive to be an incorrect penalty imposed on the opposing team. 

Duchene and other players around the league cast doubt on “make-up calls” being a regular part of hockey, though he acknowledged “there’s definitely nights where you’re skeptical of it.”

“Some of the good refs definitely have a feel for the game and they know the ebbs and flows, and they know to try to keep the game as even as possible unless the play dictates otherwise,” New York Rangers forward Ryan Strome said. “But as players, all you can ask for is that they try to call it as fair as possible.”

‘The league had to do what they had to do’

Washington centre Nicklas Backstrom, a 14-year veteran, said the incident was a first for him.

“I’ve never heard anything like that,” Backstrom said. “I think it’s maybe unfortunate that it happened and came out that way. But at the same time, the league had to do what they had to do.”

Predators coach John Hynes said it probably doesn’t matter how he feels about what the official said.

“But the referees are employees of the league and rather than me comment on it, it’s an issue that I think the league will have to take care of,” Hynes said.

Most players and coaches expressed respect for on-ice officials and lamented how difficult their jobs are in keeping track of the fast-paced game. Buffalo interim coach Don Granato said he has “full faith” in the people who work for the NHL.

“[Peel] made a mistake, but unfortunately you don’t want make-up calls to be part of the game,” Edmonton’s Adam Larsson said. “I don’t think it’s right. I think if it’s an obvious one I don’t think it should be made up for.”

Peel, 54, from Hampton, N.B., has been an NHL referee since 1999.

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World Cup champion Alex Morgan scores 1st goal for Tottenham from penalty spot

Alex Morgan scored her first goal for Tottenham in a 3-1 victory over Brighton on Sunday as the London club won its first match of the Women’s Super League season.

The American World Cup winner, who made her Tottenham debut last month after giving birth in May, scored her team’s third goal from a penalty in the 84th minute.

“Alex has been building up her time on the pitch over the course of the last couple of months,” Rehanne Skinner said after her first game as Tottenham manager. “For her, she’s getting more and more back to where she would probably want to be.”

Tottenham opened the scoring when Morgan was fouled and Kerys Harrop swung the free kick into the top left-hand corner of the goal in the 11th minute.

WATCH | Alex Morgan records 1st goal for Tottenham:

American World Cup winner Alex Morgan scores on a penalty in the 84th minute as her Tottenham Hotspur club went on to defeat Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1. 0:31

Brighton levelled from a 33rd-minute penalty after Allana Kennedy’s high foot caught Brighton’s Aileen Whelan. Inessa Kaagman fired powerfully inside the right post to make it 1-1.

In the 63rd minute, Angela Addison took the ball past two Brighton players and the goalkeeper to slot into the bottom right-hand corner and brilliantly restore Spurs’ lead.

Morgan is among a group of American players to have moved to English soccer for this season, with Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis at Manchester City, and Tobin Heath and Christen Press at Manchester United.

Tottenham has six points after eight rounds.

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Pozuelo’s late penalty lifts Toronto FC to comeback win over Inter Miami

Thanks to second-half goals Sunday by Ayo Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC goes into the final week of the MLS regular season with a shot at the Supporters’ Shield.

Toronto’s 2-1 comeback win over Inter Miami coupled with Philadelphia’s 2-1 defeat at Columbus earlier in the day left TFC and the Union with identical 13-4-5 records.

But Toronto will have to win at the New York Red Bulls next Sunday and hope Philadelphia drops points against visiting New England given the Union have the tiebreaker edge.

“With everything that transpired today…(it) means it goes down to the last game, which is what we were hoping for today” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney.

That is assuming COVID-19 doesn’t complicate matters with cancellations on the final day of the regular season.

The Supporters’ Shield goes to the team with the best-regular season record — and the playoff home-field advantage and US$ 150,00 prize that goes with it. Toronto won it in 2017 when it also claimed the MLS Cup and Canadian Championship.

Due to pandemic-related game cancellations, MLS has decided that 2020 playoff qualification will be decided by points per game rather than total points. The next relevant tiebreaker in this case is goal difference, where Philadelphia holds a 22-8 edge over Toronto, so the Union will get the trophy if both win Sunday.

Pozuelo delivered the winner in the 84th minute from the penalty spot Sunday and Toronto staved off a late Miami charge for the victory. Not for the first time, Richie Laryea created the penalty — going down at contact with defender Ben Sweat after slashing into the penalty box.

WATCH | Pozuelo nets game-winner from the penalty spot:

Alejandro Pozuelo delivers the winner on a penalty in the 84th minute as Toronto FC defeats Inter Miami 2-1. 0:47

“When you’re getting tired in the latter part of the game, for any team, dealing with Richie is a nightmare,” said Vanney.

Pozuelo left goalkeeper John McCarthy rooted to the spot as he converted his 11th penalty in MLS regular-season and playoff action. It was his ninth goal of the season and his seventh straight penalty kick success — and fifth this season.

“We already knew it was a goal before he even took it,” said Akinola.

It was Toronto’s first-ever meeting with expansion Miami (6-13-3). And it marked Toronto’s 13th straight game away from BMO Field. A limited number of spectators was allowed for the first time during Toronto’s time in East Hartford with attendance announced at 1,394 on a rainy, windy night at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.

Toronto chartered home after the game, for a few days under quarantine with loved ones before returning south for the regular-season finale.

Toronto was coming off back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and New York City FC that followed a nine-game undefeated run (7-0-2). Miami lost 2-1 at FC Dallas midweek and has won just one of its last five (1-3-1).

While Toronto had almost 65 per cent of possession in the first half, it managed just one shot on target.

Blaise Matuidi broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute after Toronto fullback Tony Gallacher lost the ball to Lewis Morgan on the right flank. Morgan’s first attempt at a cross from the byline hit Chris Mavinga but the ball came back to him.

His second attempt then bounced off Michael Bradley to Matuidi, whose low left-footed shot found the corner on the goal. It was Miami’s first shot on target and a first MLS goal for Matuidi, a World Cup winner with France whose club resume includes Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Akinola ties it up

Toronto tied it up in the 55th minute when Akinola, returning from injury, outmuscled a Miami defender to get to a high ball from substitute Patrick Mullins. He controlled it with his chest twice as he headed towards goal, then poked a shot past McCarthy for his ninth of the season.

Miami star forward Gonzalo Higuain came close to a 79th-minute goal but his swerving shot — after a magnificent touch to control a cross — cracked off the crossbar.

Vanney made six changes to his starting lineup.

Restored to health, Akinola and Mavinga made their first starts since Oct. 14. There was also a first MLS start for 18-year-old midfielder Ralph Priso, who had looked lively in two appearances off the bench since signing a first-team contract Oct. 14.

“I thought he was excellent…For his first start in MLS, that’s a hell of a way to start,” said Vanney.

Brazilian fullback Auro returned from suspensions with defender Eriq Zavaleta and Tsubasa Endoh also inserted into the starting 11.

Crowded injury list

But fullback Justin Morrow joined a crowded injury list that includes goalkeeper Alex Bono, midfielders Marky Delgado and Jonathan Osorio and forwards Jozy Altidore, Piatti and Achara.

“If we put everybody in bubble wrap and we get through the next week, we should get a couple of guys back,” said Vanney.

Altidore and Piatti are the longest-term casualties and may not be ready until the playoffs.

Miami was missing three-quarters of its backline with centre backs Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Andres Reyes suspended and fullback Nico Figal injured.

Entering weekend play, Miami was on the fringe of the playoffs in 11th place in the Eastern Conference going into weekend play, just behind Chicago. The top 10 makes the playoffs in the East with No. 7 facing No. 10 and No. 8 meeting No. 9 in play-in games.

“We have many key players missing but we had players that were able to step up…and we lost a match that we deserved to win,” Miami coach Diego Alonso said through an interpreter.

Whitecaps eliminated with loss to Timbers

The Vancouver Whitecaps have been eliminated from the playoffs after suffering a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

With Major League Soccer’s berths being determined based on points per game this season, the ‘Caps (8-13-0) needed at least a tie against Portland (11-5-5) to keep their post-season dreams hopes alive. This is the third year in a row that the Whitecaps have missed the playoffs.

Yimmi Chara scored the lone goal on Sunday with an assist from Jorge Villafana.

Portland’s Steve Clark stopped two on-target shots for his fifth clean sheet of the season, and Evan Bush made one save for Vancouver.

The two sides battled through a scoreless first half before the Timbers finally broke the stalemate in the 61st minute.

Villafana got the ball to Chara just outside of the six-yard box and the Colombian midfielder’s shot sailed past Bush before he could get down to make the stop.

The first half saw a defensive battle between the two sides, with Portland controlling 57 per cent of the possession. The Timbers outshot the Whitecaps 6-to-5, but only one was one target.

Fredy Montero nearly put Vancouver ahead with a header in the 45th minute. The ball hung in the air before it was swept off the goal line by Diego Chara.

Vancouver amped up the offensive power to close out the game, swapping more defensive minded players like Jake Nerwinski for forward Theo Bair after the Timbers’ goal. Cavallini got a big opportunity directly in front of the Portland net in the 80th minute but Clark scooped up the shot, despite traffic in front of the net.

Dike sends Orlando City past Montreal

Daryl Dike scored for the third consecutive game and Orlando City beat the Montreal Impact 1-0 on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena.

Montreal (7-13-2) has lost three in a row and five of six.

Despite the loss, the Impact remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. D.C. United and Inter Miami both had a chance to jump over Montreal in the standings Sunday night had they won, yet both teams lost to New England and Toronto, respectively.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Dike ran on to a perfectly played through ball from Mauricio Pereyra and rolled in a one-touch shot from the centre of the area in the 39th minute. The 20-year-old rookie scored his seventh goal of the season.

WATCH | Dike lifts Orlando City over Impact:

Daryl Dike’s goal in the 39th minute lifts Orlando City SC to a 1-0 victory over Montreal Impact. 1:08

Orlando City (10-3-8) has won back-to-back games after a loss to Inter Miami on Oct. 24 that snapped a 12-game unbeaten streak.

Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese had five saves, including a diving stop in the 92nd minute, for Orlando City. He has three shutouts this season.

Montreal will play for a playoff spot on Decision Day next Sunday afternoon against D.C. United in their final match of the season. Orlando City SC has already clinched a playoff spot and has two more matches to play. They will play Columbus on Wednesday before meeting Nashville Sunday.

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TFC survive late penalty scare to notch 5th straight win, clinch playoff spot

A game lacking in drama for 90 minutes came alive in stoppage time Sunday with league-leading Toronto FC clinching a playoff spot after hanging on for a 1-0 win over slumping FC Cincinnati.

In recording its fifth straight victory, Toronto (11-2-4) had to survive a 94th-minute penalty call by referee Robert Sibiga who judged Omar Gonzalez had pushed substitute Allan Cruz to the ground as a cross dropped into the Toronto penalty box. Sibiga pointed to the penalty spot but changed the call in the 96th minute after video review

Toronto coach Greg Vanney thought justice was done, saying Gonzalez had position and Cruz backed into him.

“That shouldn’t be a foul on us,” he said. “But it was a little fuzzy there for a few minutes, for sure.”

The drama came on Gonzalez’s 32nd birthday.

WATCH | TFC clinch playoff berth with victory over Cincinnati:

Toronto FC earned their 5th straight victory and became the first team to clinch an MLS playoff spot with a 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati. 1:01

Cincinnati coach Jaap Stam was not happy with the penalty reversal, noting Sibiga was 10 yards from the play and had a good view.

“If it was for like one of the big teams in the league, they would have had a penalty,” he said. “But for some reason we don’t get it. And I think it was [a penalty]. So It’s a strange decision.”

Seconds after the penalty reversal, Toronto substitute Laurent Ciman almost sent a long back pass into his own goal, a play Vanney dismissed as “nonsense.”

Ciman’s errant pass triggered a 98th-minute corner that saw former Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, always good in the air, rise high only to send his header off target.

“We should have had more out of this game unfortunately,” said Stam. “But that’s the position where we are now. We need to make our own luck. We need to work hard for it. Nobody’s going to give it to us.”

The game was filled with rare moments of excitement and few chances, but still produced another three points for TFC, who, with the win, became the first club to book its post-season ticket.

Patrick Mullins broke the deadlock in the 29th minute after Richie Laryea squared the ball back from the byline through a mass of bodies. Mullins, with the game’s first shot on target, beat goalkeeper Przemys┼éaw Tyton with a right-footed shot for his first league goal since a 5-1 win in Cincinnati on Sept. 7, 2019.

Alejandro Pozuelo picked up his 10th assist of the season on the play.

In only his second start of the season, Mullins showed his predatory skills in finding the space in the crowded box needed to get the shot off.

Toronto is undefeated in seven games (6-0-1), a run that also includes victories over Montreal, New York City FC, Columbus Crew SC, the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution.

TFC has lost just two of 27 regular-season games (15-2-10) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.

Bono undergoes surgery

Prior the match, Toronto announced that backup ‘keeper Alex Bono would be out two to three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated finger suffered in training Saturday. Kevin Silva dressed as Westberg’s backup.

Impacts’ Sejdic scores 1st MLS goal in loss to Union

Jamiro Monteiro and Sergio Santos scored in a nine-minute span and the Philadelphia Union beat the Montreal Impact 2-1 on Sunday night.

Monteiro took a well-placed lead pass from Ilsinho on the right side and just beat the keeper on the near post in the 39th minute. Santos — also set up by Ilsinho — took a cross and tapped it in a largely untended net.

Amar Sejdic got Montreal on the board at the 65th minute.

With the win, Philadelphia (10-3-4) trails Eastern Conference-leading Toronto by three points. The Impact (6-9-2) are in eighth place in the East.

WATCH | Union fend off Impact:

Philadelphia Union took a 2-goal lead and was able to hang on for 2-1 victory over Montreal Impact. 1:21

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Vancouver Whitecaps eliminated from MLS tournament in penalty shootout

Tim Melia made two saves during the penalty shootout, Gianluca Busio scored the deciding penalty and Sporting Kansas City beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 on penalties after the sides played to a 0-0 draw in regulation early Monday morning.

Kansas City advanced to the quarter-finals of the MLS is Back tournament in a match that wrapped up around 1:15 a.m. Kansas City will face Philadelphia in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact were eliminated earlier in the weekend.

Alan Pulido, Ilie Sanchez and Busio scored for Kansas City in the penalty shootout, finally getting shots past Vancouver goalkeeper Thomas Hasal after he spent the night keeping the Whitecaps in the game.

Melia saved attempts by Derek Cornelius and Yordy Reyna, and Cristian Dajome’s attempt hit the post and bounced out as the Whitecaps unlikely tournament run came to an end.

“Just the life of a goalkeeper right, one one play one decision that affects the game,” Melia said. “Then when you go into a penalty shootout I think our goalkeeper coach does a phenomenal job preparing me and all the goalkeepers for those situations and we were fortunate to come out on top tonight.”

WATCH | Whitecaps eliminated in shootout:

Hasal shutout not enough as Whitecaps eliminated by SKC in shootout  1:12

It was the first match in the knockout round of the tournament to go to penalties after the end of regulation.

Vancouver needed a 2-0 win over Chicago in its final group game to advance in the tournament, but was playing the entire tournament short-handed due to players opting out and injuries.

Kansas City dominated the 90 minutes. It outshot Vancouver 35-8, but only eight of those ended up on target and Hasal saved them all.

Hasal started the tournament as Vancouver’s third-string goalkeeper and was called into duty late in the Whitecaps loss to Seattle after Maxime Crepeau suffered a broken finger. Vancouver backup Bryan Meredith left the team in Florida earlier in the tournament after the unexpected death of his mother.

Hasal seemed worthy of starting consideration after his performance against Kansas City. He turned away efforts from Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Johnny Russell in the first half. Hasal stayed strong into the second half, again stopping great scoring chances by Zusi and Pulido early in the half.

There was concern midway through the second half if Hasal could continue after a collision with Pulido in the 69th minute. Hasal went low to deflect a cross and Pulido’s shin collided with the back of Hasal’s head. Vancovuer nearly had to ask defender Ali Adnan to step into the goal, but Hasal was cleared to continue.

“Thomas needs to stay in his bubble, keep focused, keep working,” Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos said. “It’s the only way he’s going to become better and better. But he’s showed great signs in the last 180 minutes.”

Melia had a mostly relaxed night until the shootout, although he came up with a big stop late in the second half denying Adnan’s free kick from 30 yards.

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Pozuelo scores on 90th-minute penalty to lift TFC into East final

Alejandro Pozuelo converted a 90th-minute penalty to give Toronto FC a 2-1 win over New York City FC in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal Wednesday.

Fullback Ronald Matarrita took Richie Laryea down in the 88th minute as the substitute slashed his way into the penalty box and Pozuelo slotted the spot kick down the middle with nonchalant ease in the 90th minute.

It was Pozuelo’s second goal of the game and his fourth goal against NYCFC this season. He went 2-of-3 from the penalty spot against the New Yorkers. Quentin Westberg made a diving save in stoppage time to preserve the win.

After Pozuelo took advantage of another New York City FC blunder early in the second half for a 1-0 Toronto lead, NYCFC finally came to life and launched attack after attack. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi tied it up in the 69th minute when Toronto was caught ball-watching in its own end.

Despite missing the injured Jozy Altidore, Toronto was more creative in front of goal but failed to take advantage in the first half. That changed in the 47th minute when NYCFC got an attempted clearance deep in its own half horribly wrong.

Toronto’s Brazilian fullback Auro hoofed the ball into the NYCFC end after a throw-in and the home side tried to clear the ball with three headers that went from bad to worse to complete disaster.

Defender Maxime Chanot, a French-born Luxembourg international, committed the finale gaffe with an attempted back-header to goalkeeper Sean Johnson that went straight to Pozuelo, who accepted the gift and then beat Johnson with a left-footed shot.

New York, which had the second-best regular-season record in the league, went into high gear after the goal and pulled even in the 69th minute.

After a NYCFC throw-in in the Toronto end, Maximiliano Moralez sent a cross to the far post and spotted Tajouri-Shradi making a late run. Jonathan Osorio tried to get to the unmarked Tajouri-Shradi but was too late as the Swiss-born Libyan international beat Westberg.

Toronto will play either No. 2 Atlanta or No. 3 Philadelphia, who meet Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in the conference final Oct. 20.

Toronto takes down top seed

Fourth-seeded Toronto was playing on just three days rest after a 5-1 extra-time win Saturday over visiting D.C. United in a first-round playoff matchup.

Altidore, a game-day decision with a quad strain, did not make the matchday 18 for the second match in a row. Centre back Omar Gonzalez, who sat out the D.C. contest with a hamstring issue, started on the bench.

NYCFC, in contrast, was well-rested having secured a first-round bye by virtue of topping the Eastern Conference. The New Yorkers, who finished 14 points ahead of Toronto in the regular season, last played Oct. 6 in the regular-season finale.

The game was moved some 12 kilometres from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field, home of the Mets, because of the Yankees’ playoff run. The Yankees were eliminated by Houston on Saturday but the decision to shift the MLS contest had already been made.

Toronto may have welcomed the move, given it is 0-2-4 all-time in regular-season play at the home of the Yankees. TFC did humble NYCFC 5-0 there in the 2016 playoffs, however.

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Blizzard Lowers Penalty on Hong Kong Streamer, Says China Uninvolved in Censorship

Last week, several events have shown a spotlight on Chinese censorship of the ongoing Hong Kong protests. Chinese censors have been taking increasingly draconian action to crack down on criticism of the country. When a Hong Kong-based Hearthstone streamer voiced support for the protesters who have battled for their right to a fair trial, Blizzard cracked down harshly. Chung ‘blitzchung’ Ng Wai was suspended from Hearthstone for a year and forced to forfeit his prize money. A similar punishment was applied to the two individuals who were interviewing him at the time.

The community response has been withering. Multiple casters and streamers have announced boycotts or stepped away from various positions and roles in the Hearthstone community. Now, Blizzard has released a lengthy statement on the matter, written by the company president, J. Allen Brack. It announces that the full-year ban against Blitzchung has been reduced to six months and that his prize money is no longer forfeit. It also claims: “our relationships in China had no influence on our decision… If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same.”

This pair of excerpted statements are a master class, ironically enough, in self-censorship. Let’s talk about why.

How Chinese Censorship Works

When people think of censorship, they tend to think of a government or corporation suppressing information by refusing to allow it to be published. This is one type of censorship, to be sure, but it’s not very compatible with the existence of the modern internet. Simple anti-publishing mandates are fairly easy to route around on the internet, where an article that exists online even for an instant can be screen-shotted and disseminated.

A far more effective tactic is to teach people to self-censor by convincing them that speaking up is not in their own best interest. A related term, soft censorship, refers to the practice of using financial pressure on media companies to “persuade” them not to speak up on certain topics out of concern for having their access restricted or revoked.

As we detailed in our previous coverage, China has directly encouraged self-censorship by enforcing severe penalties against offenders. In 2018, Marriott published an online poll listing Tibet as a separate country rather than a part of China. A Tibetan separatist group published a link to the survey. A Marriott employee, Roy Jones, liked the post the separatist group made. He wasn’t Tibetan. He knew nothing about China-Tibetan relations. He was doing his job — promoting content created by people who appeared to be fans of Marriott.

Jones, who made $ 14 per hour, was fired within a week.

In February 2018, Mercedes-Benz took down an Instagram post because it quoted the Dalai Lama and enraged China in the process. The offending quote? “Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open.” I have no idea why anyone thought this statement would be useful when selling cars, but it’s objectively meaningless as far as any reference to the political situation between China and Tibet. Instagram is also banned in China, meaning few-to-no Chinese users would have even seen the ad.

China’s disproportionate responses are not mistakes. They’re the whole point.

If you want people to self-censor, fear, uncertainty, and doubt — FUD — are your absolute best friends. When China cracked down on popular online bloggers and opinion-makers in 2013, it claimed it did so to prevent fraud, abuse, and slander — but many of the accounts taken offline had a political edge to them. 9,800 social media accounts were banned in a single action. Afterward, the government introduced new laws governing online speech. At least one woman went to jail for three years for breaking them. This year, the Chinese silenced a social media star named Ma Ling, with more than 16 million followers. The NYT reports she posted about a young man with cancer “whose talent and virtue were not enough to overcome problems like corruption and inequality.”

The Chinese government obliterated her social media accounts and erased her online presence.

Egregious overreaction to seemingly minor events is how China maintains the necessary climate of fear. While it cannot directly jail the employees of Americans who mouth off on Twitter, it can certainly make retaining those employees incredibly expensive for companies wishing to do business in mainland China.

Let’s get back to Blizzard. China is a major market for the company. While Blizzard no longer releases player data for World of Warcraft, China currently accounts for 5.2 percent of Activision Blizzard’s revenue, almost double from its share one year ago. Activision Blizzard earned $ 7.2B in 2018. Assume equivalent revenue for 2019 (just to make the math simple), and that means China would be worth about $ 360M to the combined company.

You are Blizzard. A streamer from Hong Kong makes a statement you know will enrage the Chinese government. Do you instantly take action to remove the content, thereby preserving your harmonious relationship with the Chinese people, or do you wait for the censors to act, knowing how you will be treated if you do? Keep in mind, there is explicitly no guarantee whatsoever that you will not be punished. Others in your exact situation have been punished. But if you act instantly, there’s a chance you’ll be deemed to have been acting in good faith.


Presented, once again, without commentary. But you might infer insinuation.

This is why I suspect J. Allen Brack could write that China had nothing to do with his company’s decision. It could very well be true. Blizzard didn’t make this decision after its lovable pal Xi Jinping stopped by with a pot of honey problem that needed solving. It made this decision “independently,” knowing that its entire Chinese business could be at stake if it did not. This, my friends, is what is often referred to as motivated reasoning.

As for the second part of the statement, I suspect it’s true as well. Would Blizzard have cracked down on a streamer with a big pro-China message? Very possibly — but importantly — not for the same reason. Blizzard likely cracked down on pro-Hong Kong statements to save its own ass. It would crack down on a pro-mainland China statement to preserve the illusion of neutrality. The only way for Blizzard to superficially appear to be neutral is to declare that it will crack down on both viewpoints. Neutrality, by its very nature, supports the status quo — in this case, the idea that no one is allowed to talk about Hong Kong unless it’s the government of mainland China. And mainland China has precious little interest in allowing news of what’s actually going on to reach its own citizens.


Image by Polygon

J. Allen Brack’s statement makes no mention of the fact that a Hearthstone team from American University attempted to get itself suspended by doing exactly what Blitzchung had done just days before. That team has not been penalized. In fact, it received a next match assignment after its action — a match it will forfeit in protest. Evidently China still recognizes that there are certain people it would be unprofitable to go after or Blizzard realizes that its efforts to curry favor with Xi Jinping’s administration have already been catastrophic for its brand. Possibly both.

This Happens

Everyone practices self-censorship to a certain extent. I personally learned the value of the concept around age 10, when I called a church deacon a bastard for not taking my money during the offertory. My mother turned a shade so alarming, my father thought she’d choked on a mint. But when applied at the corporate or government level, self-censorship isn’t just a personal decision we all make to smooth social interactions. In situations like this, it’s poison to the very idea of transparent or accountable governance. And I’ve seen the impact in my own work.

Since I ran my first story on this topic, multiple readers have reached out to tell me they don’t dare share the link. Some of them travel to China regularly. Some of them have friends and family there. This is precisely how self-censorship and China’s social credit monitoring system are supposed to work. When I heard this from readers, it then occurred to me that I might be targeted in some fashion. This is also by design. Anxiety is socially transmissible.

This article is my response.

China’s censors know they can’t control every word that people say on social media. They know even the most ardent human filters cannot read every single line of text before it’s put online. Instead of attempting an impossible task, they rely on the rest of us to do their dirty work for them. I have known people at Blizzard for 20 years. I participated in the closed beta tests for Diablo II, Warcraft 3, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and many of the WoW expansions. I have written tens of thousands of words about World of Warcraft over the last 15 years. I admire many aspects of the company, but its initial response to this situation was flatly unacceptable. Its current half-retreat wears the queasy smile of an abused individual hoping immediate obeisance will stave off a blow. Having rushed to defend the tender feelings of the Chinese government, the company now feels compelled to tack backward in response to public opinion.

Blizzard could and should do better. It’s one thing to promote free trade of goods and services. It’s another thing entirely to do business when the cost of doing so is the suppression of the rights of private US citizens to speak their minds concerning public affairs of the day. A low-level Marriott employee was bullied off his job for the crime of failing to grasp the context of a complex geopolitical situation on Twitter. This is not some hypothetical “what-if” scenario. China’s censors are already changing content, getting people fired, and controlling the larger narrative around geopolitical events in important ways now.

If we stand by and allow this to happen we will be giving up the right to free speech in the corporatized public-private spaces that now dominate the internet. China will not allow internet companies to operate within its borders without agreeing to enforce its censorship policies. We already know Google was willing to build Project Dragonfly, a new search engine for the Chinese market, despite having previously publicly pledged not to work in the country. Based on how the country is now acting, we can assume any companies with a media presence that extends into China will find themselves policed for improper references to China. How we collectively respond to these events will determine what happens when these collisions of values occur. Google killed Dragonfly only after widespread public outcry and protests from its own employees. When employees, users, and citizens demand companies stand up for the values they claim to stand for (and that Americans wish to stand for in general), there’s a much greater chance of affecting change.

Stand for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.

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Impact beat TFC on penalty kicks to win Canadian Championship

A win, loss and draw added up to victory for the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night.

Montreal beat Toronto FC 3-1 on penalty kicks at BMO Field to win the Canadian Championship. Toronto’s Tsubasa Endoh scored in the 70th minute to give the home side a 1-0 win in the return leg that left the two-game aggregate final tied at one.

The Impact posted a 1-0 win in the opener of the home-and-away series last week on an Ignacio Piatti goal. He nearly gave Montreal the win late in the second half but his shot hit the crossbar.

Montreal carried its late momentum into the penalty-kicks session, scoring on all three opportunities.

“We became stronger and our stronger and our confidence grew,” said Impact coach Wilmer Cabrera.

Rudy Camacho, Bojan and Daniel Lovitz converted from the spot for Montreal. Alejandro Pozuelo scored on Toronto’s first attempt but Jozy Altidore hit the crossbar and Patrick Mullins had his shot saved by goalkeeper Clement Diop.

Jonathan Osorio hit the post with Toronto’s fourth attempt to seal the result.

WATCH | Impact win Canadian Championship

Montreal needed a 3-1 win on penalty kicks to capture the Voyageurs Cup. 1:36

The Impact earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League with the victory. It was the fourth time that Montreal has won the Voyageurs Cup and its first domestic title since 2014.

Toronto was looking for its eighth Canadian Championship overall and fourth in a row.

“We still created some really good opportunities and had some good moments,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. “But these games come down to execution. It comes down to those key moments and you’ve got to do it.”

After a tepid opening half with few real scoring chances, Toronto came out strong in the second half.

Richie Laryea broke down the left side and found Osorio at the top of the 18-yard box. Osorio hit a low drive that beat Diop but hit the post.

The home side maintained the pressure and it paid off in the 70th minute.

Pozuelo chipped the ball across the goalmouth to Osorio, who paused and tried to advance before being knocked over. The loose ball was there for Endoh, who drove it past Diop with his left foot.

“At that moment you think you’ve got them,” said Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono. “You keep pushing and keep pushing and you go into penalty kicks, and from there it’s more or less a toss-up.”

Toronto’s Chris Mavinga was given a red card in the 85th minute for taking down Lassi Lappalainen just outside the box.

Montreal will join Mexico’s UANL, Cruz Azul, Leon and Club America in the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League, which begins in February. Other qualified teams include Jamaica’s Portmore United and MLS sides Atlanta United and LAFC.

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NYCFC preserves draw with Toronto FC on penalty kick save

New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson stopped a penalty kick in the 78th minute to help his club post a 1-1 tie with visiting Toronto FC on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.

Johnson thwarted a shot by Toronto midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, who converted a penalty kick earlier in the contest. The save, one of four by Johnson, helped NYCFC (15-5-9, 54 points) stretch its unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) and increase its Eastern Conference lead to three points over the Philadelphia Union.

Midfielder Alexandru Mitrita scored NYCFC’s goal, the only on-target shot among the team’s 10. NYCFC improved to 9-1-5 at home.

Toronto FC (11-10-9, 42 points) also has a six-game unbeaten stretch (2-0-4), and moved into a fourth place in the East. TFC is tied on points with D.C. United but owns a superior goal difference.

WATCH | TFC draw with NYCFC:

Jozy Altidore drew the penalty and Alejandro Pozuelo scored the goal in TFC’s 1-1 draw with NYCFC. 1:43

Pozuelo took his second penalty kick after New York City FC defender Ben Sweat was called for a hand ball.

He sent a hard right-footed shot toward the right side, and Johnson anticipated the direction and was able to knock the ball away with his right hand.

New York survives another scare

NYCFC also survived a Toronto FC chance in the 87th minute. A close-range, left-footed shot by midfielder Nicolas Benezet soared over the net.

Toronto took 15 shots and put five on target.

NYCFC struck in the sixth minute. Mitrita took a free kick and sent a right-footed blast from the top of the box around the wall and into the right corner of the net. It was his eighth goal of the season.

Toronto tied the score in the 40th minute after NYCFC defender Sebastien Ibeagha was caught pulling the jersey of forward Jozy Altidore in the box. Pozuelo took the penalty kick and placed it in the lower right corner of the net for his 10th goal of the season to knot the score at 1-1.

NYCFC had a 5-4 edge in first-half shots. Both teams had one on target.

Mitrita had a chance to put NYCFC ahead in the 70th minute, but his hard left-footer smacked off the left goal post.

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Prosecutor seeking death penalty in El Paso mass shooting

The shooting that killed 20 people at a crowded El Paso shopping area will be handled as a domestic terrorism case, federal authorities said Sunday as they weighed hate-crime charges against the suspected gunman that could carry the death penalty.

A local prosecutor announced that he would file capital murder charges, declaring that the alleged assailant had “lost the right to be among us.”

The attack on Saturday morning was followed less than a day later by another shooting that claimed nine lives in a nightlife district of Dayton, Ohio. That shooter was killed by police. Together the two assaults wounded more than 50 people, some of them critically, and shocked even a nation that has grown accustomed to regular spasms of gun violence.

Investigators focused on whether the El Paso attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested. The border city has figured prominently in the immigration debate and is home to 680,000 people, most of them Latino.

Eleven-year-old Leilani Hebben, right, embraces her mother Anabel Hebben as they visit the scene of the mass shooting in El Paso. (John Locher/The Associated Press)

Using a rifle, the El Paso gunman opened fire in an area packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school shopping season.

Federal officials were treating the attack as a domestic terrorism case, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash. The Justice Department was weighing federal hate-crime charges that would carry the death penalty.

Despite initial reports of possible multiple gunmen, the man in custody was believed to be the only shooter, police said.

Law enforcement officials identified him as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, a white male from Allen, a Dallas suburb which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso. He was arrested without police firing any shots, authorities said. There was no immediate indication that he had an attorney.

Distance from suspect’s home near Dallas to shooting location in El Paso:


FBI agents have executed search warrants at three homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where suspected El Paso gunman Crusius had stayed.

An agency spokesperson, Melinda Urbina, declined to give more details on the locations.

One of them was the home of his grandparents in Allen, Texas, where authorities shut down streets following the shooting.

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said the suspect was co-operative and “forthcoming with information.”

“He basically didn’t hold anything back. Particular questions were asked, and he responded in the way that needed to be answered,” Allen said.

People gather in Juarez, Mexico, on Saturday during a vigil for the three Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. (Christian Chavez/Associated Press)

El Paso police said they did not know where the weapon was purchased. Allen acknowledged that it is legal under Texas law to carry a long gun openly in a public place.

“Of course, normal individuals seeing that type of weapon might be alarmed,” but before he began firing, the suspect was technically “within the realm of the law,” Allen said.

The attack targeted a shopping area about eight kilometres from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Many of the victims were shot at a Walmart.

“The scene was a horrific one,” Allen said.

The shooting came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people and injured 13 others at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival in California before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Mother died protecting baby

Relatives said a 25-year-old woman who was shot while apparently trying to shield her two-month-old son was among those killed.

Leta Jamrowski, 19, of El Paso, learned Saturday afternoon that her sister Jordan Anchondo, a mother of three, had been shot to death at Walmart while shopping for back-to-school supplies earlier in the day. Jamrowski spoke to The Associated Press as she paced a waiting room at the University Medical Center of El Paso, where her two-month-old nephew was being treated for broken bones — the result of his mother’s fall.

“From the baby’s injuries, they said that more than likely my sister was trying to shield him,” she said. “When she got shot she was holding him and she fell on him, so that’s why he broke some of his bones. So he pretty much lived because she gave her life.”

Mexican officials said six Mexican nationals were among the dead.

Authorities were searching for any links between the suspect and the material in the document that was posted online shortly before the shooting, including the writer’s expression of concern that an influx of Hispanics into the United States will replace aging white voters. That could potentially turn Texas blue in elections and swing the White House to Democrats.

Edie Hallberg cries while speaking to police outside a Walmart store where a shooting occurred Saturday as she looks for her missing mother Angie Englisbee, who was in the store during the attack. (Andres Leighton/The Associated Press)

“It’s beginning to look more solidly that is the case,” the police chief said.

The writer was also critical of Republicans for what he described as close ties to corporations and degradation of the environment. Though a Twitter account that appears to belong to Crusius included pro-President Donald Trump posts praising the plan to build more border wall, the writer of the online document says his views on race predated Trump’s campaign and that any attempt to blame the president for his actions was “fake news.”

The writer denied he was a white supremacist, but the document says “race mixing” is destroying the nation and recommends dividing the United States into territorial enclaves determined by race. The first sentence of the four-page document expresses support for the man accused of killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March after posting his own screed with a conspiracy theory about non-white migrants replacing whites.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said he knew the shooter was not from the city.

“It’s not what we’re about,” the mayor said at the news conference.

El Paso County is more than 80 per cent Latino, according to the latest census data. Tens of thousands of Mexicans legally cross the border each day to work and shop in the city.

Trump visited in February to argue that walling off the southern border would make the U.S. safer. City residents and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, led thousands on a protest march past the barrier of barbed wire-topped fencing and towering metal slats.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, stressed that border walls have not made his hometown safer. The city’s murder rate was less than half the national average in 2005, the year before the start of its border fence. Before the wall project started, El Paso had been rated one of the three safest major U.S. cities going back to 1997.

Trump calls shooters ‘mentally ill’ 

Trump ordered flags flown at half-mast in memory of the victims of the two shootings.

The U.S. did not glimpse the president in the immediate aftermath of the weekend shootings. He spent the first hours after the tragedies out of sight at his New Jersey golf course, sending out tweets of support.

Trump addressed reporters in Morristown, N.J., Sunday afternoon and denounced the mass shootings, saying “hate has no place in our country.”

He said he’s been speaking to the attorney general, FBI director and members of Congress and will be making an additional statement Monday.

Trump pointed to a mental illness problem in the U.S., calling the shooters “really, very seriously, mentally ill.”

The AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database tracks all U.S. homicides since 2006 involving four or more people killed, not including the offender, over a short period of time regardless of weapon, location, victim-offender relationship or motive. The database shows that the median age of a public mass shooter is 28, significantly lower than the median age of a person who commits a mass shooting of his family.

Since 2006, 11 mass shootings — not including Saturday’s — have been committed by men who are 21 or younger.

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