eSports players

Riot Games plans to establish an ethics committee and global deals council after the company’s short-lived partnership with NEOM, a Saudi Arabian city development project.

The global deals council will implement a tracker to provide company-wide transparency for “all business development and sponsorship deals occurring in Riot’s global operation.” 

Riot Games ethics committee
Photo credit: Riot Games

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Representatives from Riot Games’ social impact division Karma, the Global Esports team, and its legal and diversity and inclusion teams will all be included. The council will report to the developer’s Head of Corporate and Business Development, Brian Cho, and Senior Vice President, Mark Sottosanti. 

According to a report from ESPN, Riot Games President Dylan Jadeja told employees: “The intent is for all of us to have a voice to raise a flag and for that to be followed through on. That team, that department, will also be responsible for formalizing and reinforcing the deal evaluation framework.”

Spokesperson Joe Hixson added in a statement: “We’re not going to comment on specifics of an internal conversation. We’re in the process of reevaluating our internal processes to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

Riot Games announced the partnership with NEOM on July 29th, and within hours, employees threatened to boycott until the deal was cancelled. NEOM is a “$500 billion futuristic city development in the Middle East, backed by Saudi Arabia and overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.”

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In addition, part of NEOM’s “outlandish” development is forcing the Huwaitat tribe off of their land. There has been no word about how they will be compensated after the eviction. The League of Legends developer’s partnership with NEOM was terminated 16 hours after it was announced.

A day after, an apology was posted from Alberto Guerrero, Director of Esports for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, stating: “We know that recently our actions hurt and alienated our community, particularly women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and our players in the Middle East, and for that we are deeply sorry. At the LEC, we believe in being inclusive and creating a more diverse landscape for everybody. We understand that some of you lost faith in us but we are committed to taking steps to earn back your trust. Until then, thank you for sticking with us.” 

Esports Insider says: By terminating the partnership with NEOM, Riot Games is obviously trying to regain the faith of its employees and fans. However, the internal tension between some employees and senior staff remains, especially considering the management who made the partnership decision are facing no form of disciplinary action. Thankfully, no other jobs have been threatened, including the employees and on-air talent who threatened to boycott over the partnership. Only time and effort can offer genuine repairs to this situation.

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