Esports Awards New Partnership Stirs Controversy

Last week (June 7, 2024), the Esports Awards, the leading organization for recognizing industry excellence in video gaming globally since 2015, announced a three-year partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Esports World Cup.

This partnership is not surprising, given that Saudi Arabia has made it clear that it wants to be the global leader in all things esports and in March announced a $120M USD fund to invest in esports.  This is just the latest in multiple investments and investment funds focused on catapulting Saudi Arabia into the forefront of the space.  

esports Awards controversy

The issue arises from Saudi Arabia’s view of LGBT rights along with numerous other civil rights positions.  Their actions go far beyond the pale.

To make matters worse, gaming and esports has often been a safe space for those who identify with the LGBT community.  After all, esports is a level playing field where physical prowess has no impact on actual gameplay.

This issue is no different than the current controversy in professional golf with Saudi-based LIV first luring away PGA professional golfers with massive contracts and then the PGA agreeing to merge with LIV. 

At some point, money and greed has to become secondary and people and companies must stand up for what is right.  As Lin Manuel Miranda said in Hamilton, “If you stand for nothing… what will you fall for?”  

Luckily, several high profile stakeholders including CEOs, presenters and online personalities have resigned from the Esports Awards.  Let’s hope the message is clear and others will follow.

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