Earlier this year, after Russia decided to invade Ukraine, Virtus.pro were no longer allowed to compete in esports events using this name because the company that owned the club was Russian.
But now that the ownership was transferred to an Armenian called Aram Karamanukyan, Valve gave them permission to use their original name and logo instead of playing under the improvised name Outsiders.
This decision, however, hasn’t been shared yet by other esports companies associated with Valve. Tournament organizers like ESL are still reviewing VP’s ownership change and will probably make a decision in the coming weeks.
It’s not entirely clear why Valve acted so quickly but even if its reasons are 100% justified, the name Virtus.pro is heavily associated in people’s minds with Russia. Without a rebrand, it is hard to believe that when casters will use this name at upcoming tournaments, the fans will not feel any discomfort.
— Aram Karamanukyan (@VP_Aram) September 16, 2022
It might be legitimate, but is it right?
For some, esports and politics shouldn’t be mixed. Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev said it himself this year and his words mean something. After all, he’s the best CS:GO player of all time and he’s from Ukraine. But it probably won’t matter.
The pain that was caused by this ongoing war will require a long time to forget. In the meantime, using names that are so strongly associated with the Russian Federation is probably not a good idea.
Even if VP’s change of ownership is not just an attempt to circumvent the sanctions placed earlier this year on Russian esports organizations, Ukrainian fans and teams might not feel good about this.
Under normal circumstances, doing something that is legitimate but potentially offensive wouldn’t be an issue. But given how delicate this situation is, perhaps the name Virtus.pro should have not been revived so soon.
The conflict in Ukraine is still raging and millions of people have suffered as a result. The last thing that esports needs is a player base divided by politics and bad feelings. It’s clear that people have nothing against the professional players themselves. There are many Russian players who compete for foreign teams.
Even Natus Vincere have Russians in the roster and it’s not an issue. OG as well, and many other clubs. The real issue here is with Russian-based organizations and Virtus.pro, in everything but legal documents is a Russian org.
We’ll have to wait and see what decisions are made going forward and what the fan’s response will be. Legally, Virtus.pro have all the right to request that the ban is lifted if indeed they’re no longer owned by a Russian company. But in every other way, the decision to lift the ban so soon feels wrong.