BLAST teams take firm stance against NEOM partnership
BLAST Premier's partner organizations have teamed up to take a firm stance against the tournament organizer's recent controversial partnership with Saudi Arabian project NEOM, HLTV.org has learned.
The team organizations that are officially partnered with BLAST Premier are currently joining forces to pressure the tournament organizer to drop its partnership with NEOM, with a meeting between the teams and the TO about the issue set to take place later on Monday.
Announced in late July as a "record deal" for BLAST, the partnership with NEOM — a planned mega-city in Saudi Arabia with an estimated cost of $500 billion — was met with overwhelming backlash from many public figures and the community at large, as the Middle Eastern country's government has been linked with abuse of indigenous tribes as well as anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
Members of on-air talent, some of whom have worked with BLAST before, were among the first to condemn the deal publicly, with Duncan "Thorin" Shields, Frankie Ward, Harry Russell, Hugo Byron, Vince Hill, and Dust Mouret being among those who spoke out and stated that they wouldn't work the tournament organizer in the future should the deal stay in place.
Furthermore, former commentator and now coach of Liquid, Jason "moses" O'Toole, wrote an email to BLAST criticising the Denmark-based company for its silence on the matter and for placing employees and freelancers under public scrutiny.
The only partner organization to have so far publicly commented on the deal out of the 12 partners is Astralis. The organisation's CEO, Anders Hørsholt, gave a comment to Politiken.dk, stating that his organization finds the partnership "unacceptable" and explaining that they have made it clear to the tournament organizer that Astralis can "in no way stand up in a context where our brand, players or partners are connected with companies of this type".
BLAST is not the first company in esports to face backlash for its partnership with NEOM, as the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) found itself in the same position in late July. Their deal with the same project was boycotted by broadcast talent members as well as other members of staff of Riot Games, who cancelled the partnership less than 24 hours after the announcement of the deal.
HLTV.org has reached out to BLAST for comment and will update this story if we receive more information.