Questions have been raised over Saudi Arabia's LGBTQ+ stance
UPDATE: LEC host Eefje Depoortere has spoken out about NEOM's sponsorship. Read below for her comments and the original story
Riot Games has been called out over its controversial new partnership for the League of Legends European Championship. One of Riot's main partners is Saudi Arabian NEOM - hoping to turn the upcoming NEOM city into an esports hub.
While the news is a major announcement, others have pointed to Saudi Arabia's stance on the LGBTQ+ community and those who are persecuted in the country.
The partnership caught the attention of esports consultant Rod Breslau, who called out Riot for displaying a Pride flag as part of LEC while also partnering with NEOM.
Breslau wrote, "Riot's LEC, donning a pride flag logo right now, has just announced NEON, a new city backed by the regime of the Saudi Arabian government, as its title sponsor. the same regime that persecutes and kills LBGTQ members with human rights abuses".
Breslau claimed the announcement was only made public recently and how there's been a backlash from those working within Riot. Others pointed out that BLAST Premier also partnered with NEOM, but how this seemed to go relatively unnoticed when compared to Riot's partnership.
The tweet quickly grew as the comment thread was filled with complaints. Although some pointed out that the decision was probably out of Riot's hands, one person wrote, "This is pretty ridiculous. They have LGBT people in their broadcast team. The whole broadcast team openly tweeted their disappointment about this. Did the people who made this deal even think for a second before accepting it?".
LEC host Eefje Depoortere has also spoken out and made her feelings clear. She doubled down on the fact most people just work for LEC, however, she appealed for fans to see the genuine intentions of those who've been "blindsided", then described NEOM as an "awful sponsor".
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.
It's important to note NEOM isn't LEC's only partner. The competition has also paired with Secretlab, KitKat, Alienware, Kia Motors, Shell, and Foot Locker. LEC earlier announced Erste Group Bank as a main partner. What happens next remains to be seen, but either way, the NEOM issue could be a controversial one for Riot and LEC in general.
Images via LEC Twitter