The video game developer has cut ties with NEOM
Riot Games has taken swift action and dropped NEOM as one of its main partners for the upcoming League of Legends European Championship.
While news that Riot had teamed up with NEOM for LEC is about as big as it comes, it didn't take long for fandom to flood social media with its anger. Namely, NEOM's links to Saudi Arabia and the countries disdain for the LGBTQ+ community was a major cause for concern.
It wasn't just players who were up in arms, and with Riot employing plenty of LGBTQ+ staff, it didn't take long for the situation to spiral.
Now, Alberto Guerrero, Riot's EMEA director of esports, has released a statement and confirmed the two giants have parted ways. Addressing the debacle, Guerrero said, "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".
NEOM planned to use LEC to expand its profile and set up the in-construction NEOM City as an esports metropolis. Guerrero continued, "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".
Critics of the NEOM partnership spread far and wide. Even LEC host Eefje Depoortere clapped back at the signing and said those who work within the championship were "blindsided".
That doesn't change we feel blindsided by the people close to us who now want us to push this awful sponsor on our broadcast, and want to take action.
Saying that isn't genuine is extremely hurtful.
According to the Wall Street Journal, NEOM City could cost around $500bn and would be a futuristic haven with flying cars, robotic dinosaurs, and a giant artificial moon. It's all part of Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman's grand plan, and while it sounds like something plucked from a Philip K. Dick novel, there's no escaping the Middle East's stance on sexual identity.
Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records for LGBTQ+ rights, with all forms of same-sex activity being illegal - even punishable by death.
Blast Premier has also partnered with NEOM, but at the time of writing, it's unclear whether this is still going ahead. As Riot Games aims to put the whole situation behind it, many are praising the video game developer for ending its NEOM partnership so quickly.