Soon after the BLAST Premier Pro Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament series announced a new partnership with NEOM, some top CSGO talent came out to make clear that they wouldn’t work with BLAST any longer.
NEOM, a developing tourist attraction in Saudi Arabia also came under fire in the LEC when League of Legends talent revolted after Riot Games’ European competitive league had partnered with NEOM. The LEC wound up ending their partnership with NEOM when the talent accused them of “fake activism.” Now, CSGO talent are pushing for the same response from BLAST.
Vance Hill, Frankie Ward, Harry Russell, and Hugo Bryon have all pulled out of BLAST events because of the NEOM partnership, citing NEOM’s abuse of indigenous communities and inhumane treatment of people within the LGBTQ+ community.
“Blast x NEOM is a disgrace to the BLAST brand, an organization I know is filled with wonderful, talented, and loving individuals. The idea that this could be ‘silenced’ through ignoring it is not a standard of precedent that should be set,” Russell tweeted.
I join my friends and colleagues in saying that I won’t be working with BLAST while this partnership stands. This isn’t an issue that will simply be forgotten about.
I deeply admire the courage of those with ties to BLAST who spoke up against this early on. You aren’t alone ❤️🤍
— JustHarry (@JustHarryGG) August 5, 2020
Bryon responded that everyone to “educate themselves” on NEOM’s human rights violations. This includes destroying indigenous cities and evicting people from their ancestral homelands, according to The Guardian. NEOM was also accused of murdering protest leaders who opposed its development.
The BLAST x NEOM deal is an opportunity to educate ourselves so that we no longer work with people who would kill our friends.https://t.co/OY5lnFtcVK
— Frankie (@FrankieWard) August 5, 2020
The CSGO talent also noted that Saudi Arabia’s government has implemented anti-LGBTQ laws. This includes criminalizing same-sex relationships and criminalizing the act of wearing clothing that they feel isn’t fit for a person’s sex. The US Department of State Human Rights Report stated that same-sex sexual conduct can be punishable by flogging and even death in Saudi Arabia.
“I’m reminding people that some countries actually criminalize people to the point of a death sentence for not being straight,” Ward tweeted when questioned why she was not going to work with BLAST over the partnership.
“Saudi Arabia’s state security agency released a video last week on an official government Twitter account that listed feminism, homosexuality and atheism among ideologies that fell into the category of ‘extremism.'” https://t.co/0zgaIsL538
— FFRF (@FFRF) November 14, 2019
BLAST Pro Series has yet to respond to the outcry from members of the CSGO community. As of the time of publishing, BLAST remains partnered with NEOM.