Riot Games’ LEC Partnership With Saudi City Fiercely Criticized

Update:

Riot has announced in a statement that it will end its partnership with the Saudi city of NEOM “effective immediately” following community outcry.

You can read Riot’s full statement below:

“As a company and as a league, we know that it’s important to recognize when we make mistakes and quickly work to correct them. After further reflection, while we remain steadfastly committed to all of our players and fans worldwide including those living in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, the LEC has ended its partnership with NEOM, effective immediately. In an effort to expand our esports ecosystem, we moved too quickly to cement this partnership and caused rifts in the very community we seek to grow. While we missed our own expectations in this instance, we’re committed to reexamining our internal structures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”


Original Story: Riot Games is facing criticism after announcing that the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) will partner with Neom, a $500 billion, smart-city founded by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Although touted as a city of the future in a press release announcing news of the partnership, Neom has been reportedly built atop forced evictions. This is on top of existing criticism against the Saudi Arabian government in regards to its treatment of LGBT peoples, as well as bin Salman’s links to the assassination of a Washington Post journalist.

All of this has led to the swift condemnation of the sponsorship from high-profile voices in the League of Legends community, as well as from Riot employees.

“Incredibly disappointed in Riot today and am baffled at how we could possibly support this,” tweeted Alex Shahmiri, brand lead for Arcane, Riot’s upcoming animated series. “[The partnership] does not reflect the company that I started at six years ago and goes against so much of the progress we’ve been trying to make in the last few years.”

The Rioters Against Forced Arbitration group, which was started following the allegations that Riot fostered a toxic and sexist workplace, also tweeted out against the partnership.

IGN has reached out to Riot for a comment.


Matt T.M. Kim is a reporter for IGN.

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