Day 2 at 2018 NA LCS Summer Split Finals in Oakland, California, USA on 9 September 2018.
Alienware would be ready to end its global sponsorship deal with League of Legends ten months in advance following sexual harassment allegations against Riot Games CEO.
Allegations of sexual harassment against Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent begin to cost dearly. To tell it is Jacob Wolf on Dot Esports who revealed how Alienware, one of the main sponsors of League of Legends for global competitions, would be willing to terminate the partnership with Riot Games ten months in advance. No appearances at the Mid-Season Invitational, Worlds, All-Star, or any other competition, for the Miami company’s products.
To weigh on the decision would be the concern shown by Alienware to Riot Games about the public image of the game after yet another accusation of sexual harassment within the League of Legends company, Valorant and beyond. This time, then, he moved against the CEO Nicolo Laurent. Already during the last weekend Riot Games had removed any reference to Alienware from the directives of the various competitive leagues: LCS, LEC, LCK and LPL have been orphaned of dedicated advertisements.
“Alienware has been a very valuable partner to us since January 2019. We cannot currently comment on our agreements for confidentiality reasons but, as we continue to discuss with them, we have removed all references to the brand in our broadcasts.Riot Games said in a statement released to Dot Esports.
The public image, from a purely corporate profile, of Riot Games began to crack in August 2018 after the article appeared in Kotaku in which several accusations of sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace were collected. Riot Games at the time could not help but publicly apologize and announce a renewal plan, intended as “cultural transformation”, to use their own words, of 16 months. Despite the constant efforts of Riot Games, more and more accusations have appeared from other people involved.
Scott Gelb had initially paid the first consequences, accused by the same company of inappropriate conduct, including the “hitting the male genitals of their employees as a joke “. In a specific statement Riot had announced the temporary suspension of Gelb, leaving him without a salary and putting him in a recovery program before returning to the company. In March 2021, however, Gelb still plays the role of Coo of Riot Games.
Today the main accusations are instead leveled against the CEO of Riot Games, Nicolo Laurent, by former executive assistant Sharon O’Donnell. The woman sued Riot and Laurent in January in California, accusing the CEO of sexist comments, including the allusion that “female employees should have children to avoid stress during the Covid-19 pandemic ”. Not only that: Laurent would also have invited O’Donnell on non-work related trips. Upon her refusal, Laurent allegedly decided to dismiss the woman without just cause in July 2020 after she reported the overexposed facts to the company’s human resources department.
Despite Riot explicitly denying it that O’Donnell’s dismissal is linked to these facts, adding that many other employees have complained about the woman professionally, the company has nevertheless opened an independent internal investigation into Laurent’s behavior. “Our goal is to provide Rioters with extreme confidence in our behavior. The cultural transformation we have undertaken also includes taking any allegation of harassment or discrimination seriously, through internal investigations of anyone who has violated our policies.Joe Hixson declared in the Daily Esports. “Our CEO was the first to be available and cooperative to shed light on the investigative process against him: we will leave nothing to chance.“
In 2020 Riot Games took another misstep in announcing the collaboration with Neom, a company owned by the sovereign wealth fund owned by the rulers of Saudi Arabia. The entire group of Riot Games casters, especially the European LEC, had raised more than one critical issue, even threatening a mass strike. The reasons can be traced to three particular aspects: the first concerns the contrast between the benevolent intentions of Riot Games to support the LGBTQ + community and the agreement with a company in Saudi Arabia, a country where the death penalty is foreseen for the ‘homosexuality; the second theme deals with the question of the location of Neom, a futuristic city that would occupy the native land of the Huwaitat tribes, not exactly kindly invited to leave space; finally, everything also fits into the narrative of the Khashoggi murder, as reported by the Washington Post killed in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul by a commando under the direct orders of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. A series of inconsistencies that had led Riot Games to announce the end of the partnership just 14 hours after its inception.
Decidedly unhappy choices those of the company, forced in the last year to juggle various accusations, absolutely not compensated by the spectacle and emotions that titles such as League of Legends or Valorant are able to give.