The LEC and NEOM are partnering. What is NEOM? It’s a little complicated. “NEOM is a new community that will be the home and workplace for more than a million citizens from around the world who want to be part of building a new model for sustainable living, working, and prospering in Saudi Arabia. It will include towns and cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centers, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations all designed to play a leading role in global development – and will be championing the development of esports across the world.” The full announcement can be found here.
But that’s not quite all that story has to offer. Members of the LEC team, including popular casters, are publicly denouncing the partnership. NEOM, which functions in part thanks to the current crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is in part known for not being so nice to the LGBTQ+ community, using capital punishment on its members. Also in order to build this “utopian city” many of the people that lived there natively were displaced and cast aside. Radoslav “Nydra” Kolev at InvenGlobal has more on that.
But wait! There’s more! Among all of this, the CEO of Riot Games, Nicolo Laurent, published an editorial piece on gamesindustry.biz about the lessons learned from the cultural problems that were brought to public light about two years ago. He wrote how Riot has been hard at work at changing their internal culture to one of positivity and inclusivity. He also talked about how they will make sure they’re better moving forward. If this story had come out a week ago, in a vacuum we’d be praising it, but knowing that the actions of the company seem to be directly contradicting this statement, it now seems empty.
Just one more thing, the LEC isn’t the only esports league to partner with NEOM. BLAST has also announced a partnership with them. The Danish Tournament Organizer isn’t receiving the same public backlash that LEC is, so far. BLAST will help advise NEOM on the creation of their esports academy. Andrew Hayward at Esports Insider has more on that.