Trevor “Quickshot” Henry, onair talent manager and LEC commentator since 2013 (back when it was called the EU LCS), simply linked without comment on Twitter to an article from The Guardian, which details the impact of the construction of Neom on the Huwaitat tribe, a representative of which is quoted saying “…Neom is being built on our blood, on our bones.”
The LEC is not the first entertainment entity to accept a lucrative deal with Saudi Arabia and receive backlash for it. In 2018, World Wrestling Entertainment began advertising the Greatest Royal Rumble, which would take place at King Abdullah International Stadium as part of a 10-year strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority. The partnership and event itself received significant criticism, but the WWE has continued its relationship with Saudi Arabia, hosting a second event in 2019 called Crown Jewel. Overall, Forbes noted that the deal could be worth anywhere from $425M to $500M USD.
While no financial details have been revealed regarding Riot Games’ partnership, it is likely to be a high-value deal for the publisher. Earlier this week, tournament organizer BLAST announced its own Neom deal, with CEO Robbie Douek referring to the partnership as a “record deal.”
The Esports Observer has reached out to Riot Games for comment. At the time of writing, the company has not issued any statement regarding the criticism or the response from its broadcast team.
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