The League of Legends esports community was set on fire and then partially doused this week thanks to a decision – now rescinded – by Riot Games to partner with Saudi Arabia’s controversial Neom project for the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) tournament.
Presumably our audience reads the news beyond gaming and is already familiar with the starkly anti-LGBTQ position and human rights history of Saudi Arabia’s government and ruling family, as well as with the future city of Neom, a project that’s faced widespread criticism over the government displacing, arresting, and killing members of the indigenous people who already live in the proposed land. If not, now you have the gloss and the links.
In any case, the game’s Reddit erupted. Polygon compiled a list of casters, commentators, and even multiple Riot staff who were aghast at the move, which came as Europe is in the midst of its annual LGBTQ pride celebration.
Last night, just two days after the announcement, Riot canceled its partnership with Neom.
“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.”