It has been just over an hour since the sponsorship was announced, and the entire live broadcast team for the LEC has now vocally dissented against the league’s new sponsor NEOM.
Backed and masterminded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, NEOM is a planned megacity with a budget of £400bn with extravagant plans that include an “artificial moon” and glow in the dark beaches. All laudable goals - if tarred by vanity and eccentricity - but those plans are built on the blood of the over 20,000 indeginous people it will be displacing.
A Guardian article linked by Trevor “Quickshot” Henry puts it this way: “Neom is less a shining vision of the future than a grim symbol of Saudi human rights violations, underscored by the treatment of the Huwaitat tribe.”
For the likes of Indiana “Froskurinn” Black and ex-caster, now MAD Lions Community Manager James “Stress” O’Leary, the sponsorship strikes on a more personal level. Both are outspoken members of the LGBTQ+ community, and Saudi Arabia alongside MBS have a notoriously brutal history of abuse against that community. Stress puts it bluntly: “The league I cover is now promoting a country that would kill me just for existing.”
The LEC’s logo was recently rebranded into pride colours. Never has that felt more like an empty corporate statement.
The current list of dissenters includes: Quickshot, Drakos, Medic, Froskurinn (1 and 2), Vedius, Ender, Sjokz, Laure, Stress, Munch, Shakarez, Jeff Latham, Triaged, Darius, Excoundrel, Michal Konkol, Becca
- Read more: The recent NEOM sponsorships are a travesty - there can be no place for human rights abuse in esports
LEC are not the only esport organisation that has recently signed a deal with NEOM, BLAST also signed a deal with the planned city-state with the goal of advising on the creation of "an esports academy in the city and the expansion of esports within the wider Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."