The LEC has drawn vicious backlash from fans, industry members, players, and the league’s own talent after announcing their latest sponsor. In posts on social media and on a dedicated website, the LEC revealed it would be partnering with NEOM as their new main partner for the Summer Split.
NEOM is a Saudi Arabian state-controlled company which oversees city development within the country. As per the press release “NEOM is the vision of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and is a centerpiece of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision plan to grow and diversify the Saudi economy.” NEOM invisions a new $500 billion city of the coast of the Red Sea, bordering Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. A Guardian article describes the prospective site as being “33 times the size of New York City.”
The choice of sponsor has drawn severe criticism due to the LEC’s seemingly hypocritical stance. Saudi Arabia’s treatment of LGBTQ individuals is extremely poor. Gay and lesbian sexual relations are criminalised, and expression of trans identity is also illegal. What’s more, many of the charges carry the death penalty.
On the other hand, the LEC just last year announced it was partnering with Pridelectics to support The Trevor Project. This is an organisation committed to preventing suicides in LGBTQ+ youths. Furthermore, the company has recently show support for LGBTQ+ causes with its prominent display of a new rainbow logo, further cementing the hypocrisy.
Fans, journalists, and content creators were quick to condemn the decision. But most vocal of all were the LEC casting talent.
The LEC casting team, of whom several are members of the LGBTQ community, have taken to Twitter to describe what they call a “betrayal.”
Questions have been raised to the reason for this bizarre sponsor choice. Many point to the huge amount of money offered by the Saudi Arabian investors. NEOM, the company in question, was previously linked to a $50 million deal with the WWE. A similar sum of money could also be in play here.
Regardless of reason, the LEC has burned much of its good will in partnering with such a controversial sponsor.