The League Championship Series and Riot Games had a tumultuous Wednesday, after announcing a highly controversial partnership with Saudi Arabian city-company, Neom. Fourteen hours after the partnership was announced, the LEC reversed the deal, apologizing to their fans for their mistake, stating, "While we missed our own expectations in this instance, we’re committed to reexamining our internal structures to ensure this doesn't happen again.”
If you haven't yet heard of the LEC Neom deal, please read up on the partnership, backlash, and reversal all linked below before continuing.
The partnership announcement raised a massive movement against the deal across social media, with LoL talent and community members speaking out. In terms of team's involvement in or knowledge of the deal, G2 Esports founder and CEO, Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez of G2 Esports, denied having the proper time or ability to combat the partnership.
Inven Global reached out and spoke with several Rioters across multiple teams and offices in order to get a better understanding of how the partnership was communicated to the team, what the response was within the company, and how they hope to grow from the situation. We had discussions both before and after the deal was reversed.
The first source we spoke with was especially frustrated with how little communication had happened between the LEC team and the rest of Riot globally.
“It sounds like there was a conscious effort not to tell people, but they just told people they had to tell right before it was announced," they said, meaning nobody was given notice other than the immediate team involved in making the announcement, the LEC orgs, and the LEC broadcast, and only shortly before it went live to the public today.
After inquiring about the general response from Rioters throughout their company chat, it became clear that many working behind the scenes were vehemently opposed to it.
“There are some Rioters who said, ‘If this isn’t reversed, it will be hard to continue working here'," one source said. In a later conversation after the deal was reversed, we heard that, “others brought up virtual walkouts, some, going on strike. Nothing formal was planned, just people started conversations about potentially doing them.” And another source noted that their collective response has so far been seemingly unanimous. “No one yet has said a word about being in support of this deal.”
Furthermore, same source points out the undoing of a lot of the hard work multiple teams across Riot have been doing over their recent history. “One of the reasons we are all so disappointed is because we [Riot] have done all this stuff for Diversity and Inclusion over the past couple years and it’s felt good to be able to say, ‘Hey look we’re doing this, and we’re doing that,’ and it’s all just gone because we did something so shameful.”
As far as looking forward, one source said: "I'm relieved, but there's clearly a lot of work to be done."
The story is developing and we will continue to update upon further information surrounding the partnership and Rioters' responses.
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