Riot Games has been criticised by members of LEC talent and employees after announcing a new partnership with NEOM, a project backed by the Saudi Arabian government.
The NEOM venture aims to create a massive futuristic tech city in the northwest of the country and is backed by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. However, due to Saudi Arabia’s track record on LGBT rights, attitudes towards free press, and the treatment of journalists, the partnership has seen massive backlash from notable LEC names such as Eefje ‘Sjokz’ Depoortere, Trevor ‘Quickshot’ Henry, and Idiana ‘Froskurinn’ Black, as well as several Riot employees and swathes of the league’s fans. Just days ago the league held a pride-related broadcast and changed its social media profile pictures to pride colours.
Taking to Twitter to denounce the partnership, Froskurinn says she has been “let down” by the LEC, and says she feels “devastated” and “silenced” by those who let the partnership happen. Her disappointment has been echoed by LEC host Sjokz, while Quickshot shared an investigation by The Guardian into the human cost of building the NEOM city.
This is disappointing because this is the LEC. It’s my team, my product, my managers, my office.
My family. My home.
This isn’t someone far away in HQ that I don’t know. This is devastating because I know who made these choices and I feel silenced.
— Froskurinn (@Froskurinn) July 29, 2020
I am terribly disappointed.
— Eefje Depoortere (@sjokz) July 29, 2020
These sentiments have also been echoed by Riot employees.
Not sure what to say today. Sad. Disappointed. Frustrated. Betrayed.
More than anything else being gay, and being proud of it, has defined my life, and it always will.
— Jeff Latham (@JeffSLatham) July 29, 2020
The LEC is not the only esports name to be tied to NEOM. Yesterday, tournament organiser BLAST revealed that it was partnering with the NEOM project and would be helping to shape the future city into an esports hub in the region.
However, the BLAST partnership appears to have drawn nowhere near the level of backlash as today’s LEC announcement has.
The Loadout has reached out to Riot for comment regarding the criticism of the LEC’s partnership.