Riot Games found itself in a bit of hot water earlier this week after its League of Legends European Championship accepted a sponsorship from a project supported by the government of Saudi Arabia. NEOM, a futuristic city envisioned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, was announced a “Main Partner” on Tuesday, but the Saudi government’s draconian stance on human rights — particularly its views regarding LGBT rights — angered players and Rioters alike, to the point that the partnership has now been scrapped.
Riot issued the following statement in light of the situation:
“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.”
The partnership was announced on July 28, one day after Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent wrote an op-ed that described his company’s progress in becoming a more inclusive place for people of all backgrounds to work at. It would have been darkly ironic for the deal to have gone through so soon after Laurent’s article, though it would have been just as inappropriate had it occurred weeks or months later.