After Riot Games announced that the League of Legends European Championship would receive a hefty sponsorship with the Saudi Arabian city of Neom, the LEC on-air team refused to broadcast until Riot took action. Broadcasters Medic, Ender, Froskurinn, Quickshot, and Sjokz, among others, all decided to strike until the partnership with Neom was ended.
The controversy surrounding the city of Neom stems from the Saudi Arabian Government's involvement in the development of the city. While the city is expected to be a sci-fi wonderland that dwarfs New York in size, its founders have a troubling history of human rights violations. The Saudi Government does not recognize same-sex marriage and has strict laws banning homosexuality or being transgender.
Lead Game Designer, Mark Yetter, explained his disdain for the partnership, saying, "I can't and do not personally support this partnership. Sponsors are essential for esports to thrive, but not at the cost of human life and freedoms."
Riot has since announced that they have cut ties with Neom and apologized to its fans. In a statement given by Riot's Director of Esports EMEA, Alberto Guerrero, the company stated, "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."
LEC returns to action July 31 as the European teams will move towards finishing up the summer split.