After facing some heavy criticism BLAST have concluded their partnership with the Saudi Arabian futuristic mega-city NEOM on mutual agreement.
Ever since the Danish esports event organizer BLAST announced their partnership with NEOM back in July the company came under fire. NEOM is a mega-city project that is backed by the Saudi Arabia government which has already invested over $500 billion in an attempt to attract future residents. According to HLTV, the deal is now off after the two sides reached a mutual agreement to conclude it.
Today we announce a global partnership with @NEOM, an ambitious project that includes building a major esports ecosystem in the heart of what will be the new future of living!— BLAST Premier (@BLASTPremier) July 28, 2020
We talk about the future of esports, so let's get to it. #BLASTPremier #DiscoverNEOM pic.twitter.com/rjJdMxer9w
Needless to say, the community wasn’t happy with the deal as Saudi Arabia has a rather poor record in terms of human rights, repression of women and LGBT people. Around the same time BLAST announced their partnership Riot Games ended theirs. The NA company received heavy criticism from both fans and its own employees and as a result, decided to put the NEOM deal to an end.
We’re not entirely sure why BLAST expected their announcement for the newly found partnership with NEOM to go any different than with Riot. Many casters that took part in previous BLAST events voiced their opinion and made it clear that they won’t be working with the company unless the deal goes down.
Been off Twitter for a good while.— JustHarry (@JustHarryGG) August 5, 2020
Blast x NEOM is a disgrace to the Blast brand, an organisation I know is filled with wonderful, talented & loving individuals.
The idea that this could be "silenced" through ignoring it is not a standard or precedent that should be set either.
Members of the esports community also expressed their disappointment with the business venture.
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
In the pro scene players also didn’t remain silent. Former caster and now Team Liquid coach Jason “Moses” O’Toole wrote a lengthy email (published by DBLTAP) that really goes into detail:
To Whom it May Concern, BLAST Premier / RFRSH management,
Two weeks ago you announced a new partnership with NEOM. Since that time I, along with some of my colleagues, have been reaching out to you to get information so that we could understand the reasoning and extent of this deal. We chose to do this out of respect for the working relationship we have had with BLAST for the past four years.
Yet you have not returned that respect in any way. Since I first reached out on July 30th, calls and meetings have been scheduled and then delayed, dodged, rescheduled, and cancelled. The only response we have been given is that the situation is complex and you need more time to give us any details. I cannot properly express how frustrating and disappointing this has been for many of us.
Most of us stood by your side after the debacle of cancelling a day of your first ever event, and we did what we could to publicly soothe the community and show that you guys were on the right track. We have been there through multiple tough stretches that BLAST has had to endure. To not have that respect and loyalty returned here in any way should fill all of you with shame.
Your silence on this matter is deafening, and now it is harming those who have worked closest with you over the past few years. Your refusal to speak up in defense of your own deal has placed your employees in the crossfire. Your weakness in this regard has allowed the freelancers you work with to be hung out to dry under public scrutiny.
You are allowing others to take the heat for a deal that most of us know nothing about, do not agree with, and flat out despise.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that I truly believe that this is not the kind of people that work at BLAST. This is not the quality of people I have worked side by side with for four years. Those people would not sit back in silence to avoid the blowback and consequences.
If you can’t even speak in support of the partner you have chosen to work with, maybe this is not a partnership worth having.
And if you can’t find the courage to speak for the men and women who have worked alongside you for years to bring your product to life, then maybe this truly isn't the same BLAST I have enjoyed working with.
Astralis were the only team to publicly criticize the deal as they even publicly called it unacceptable. According to HLTV, other teams weren’t happy with it too, but they preferred to voice their concerns in private. BLAST haven't yet made an official announcement about the end of the deal, but we can expect one in the days to follow.