League of Legends Saudi Arabia Sponsorship Deal Met With Heavy Criticism

Riot Games has received sharp criticism over a recent announcement that it would be partnering with Saudi Arabian city Neom for its League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Summer Season. Critics of the move, including some from within the LoL community, have raised concerns regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the city’s implications for an indigenous tribe.

The announcement named Neom as its partner city and said it will be “a new model for sustainable living, working, and prospering” in Saudi Arabia. It also said that Neom will “help future-proof the LEC stage” by sponsoring the Oracle Lens feature, which predicts team movements and strategies.

Neom is a $500 billion mega-city currently being built in Saudi Arabia, financed by Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. That connection itself has led to much of the criticism, as American intelligence agencies have concluded that bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. In broader terms, Saudi Arabia has a poor human rights record, especially in regards to women and LGBTQ individuals.

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