After facing huge backlash not only from the community, but also from its own employees, this morning Riot Games ended its cooperation with Saudi Arabian smart city project NEOM.
Riot Games published a statement on their official website by EMEA Director of Esports Alberto Guerrero:
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.
LEC's partnership with NEOM caused turmoil and anger in the LoL community, particularly because of Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record, and especially its treatment of LGBTQ people. Many crew members of the LEC broadcasts expressed their displeasure about the partnership on Twitter and were joined by their LCS colleagues.
Many members of the community also accuse Riot Games and the LEC of being hypocritical in their stance on human rights. The official logo of the LEC sports the rainbow colors in support of the LGBTQ community. Yet, at the same time, LoL's developer and its European league are working with an organization from a country that firmly rejects LGBTQ rights and has made homosexuality punishable by death in some cases.
The decision to end the collaboration has been well received. There was a lot of praise from the community for Riot's quick response to the reaction of fans and casters. Many speak of a victory for the LEC and the European LoL community.
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