Alienware ends sponsorship with League of Legends amidst sexual harassment claims.
Alienware has terminated its sponsorship contract with Riot Games.
The company's branding has been successfully removed from all League of Legends broadcasting over the weekend. The global esports partnership began in 2019 and wasn’t supposed to end until January 2022; just over 10 months from now.
Riot Games is an incredibly prominent video game developer based in Los Angeles, California. Riot is best known for its debut game, League of Legends. As well as producing multiple spinoffs and a popular first person shooter game Valorant. They're also widely recognized for hosting major esports tournaments such as the League of Legends Championship.
Alienware, known for its high performance gaming hardware is owned by tech giant, Dell and is one of the largest sponsors for League of Legends. According to a report by Jacob Wolf at Dot Esports, the lawsuit filed in January of this year against Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent, is the direct cause behind the end of this partnership. Alienware expressed concern with the game developer’s public image at this time while making this decision.
Lawsuit Against Nicolo Laurent
A former executive assistant to Riot’s CEO, Sharon O’Donnell, has filed a suit against Nicolo Laurent accusing him of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. She claims that Laurent made sexist comments, conditioning her job based on her cooperation to sexual conduct. As well as inviting her to work from his home when his wife was absent.
O’Donnell’s claims detail an instance where Laurent asked her if she “could handle him when they were alone at his house”.
The filing also accuses Laurent of becoming angry and hostile when she refused his advances; resulting in her work responsibilities being reduced. O’Donnell believes that she was ultimately terminated in July of 2020 because she refused Laurent's advances. She first began working at Riot Games in October of 2017, stating that the harassment began very early on. She goes on to describe Riot’s work environment as hostile.
Riot Games Respond to Allegations
In response to the claims, Riot has insisted O’Donnell’s termination was due to complaints from other employees and external partners. Riot also claims O’Donnell recieved multiple coaching sessions to address these problems stating, “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false”.
According to a statement by Riot Games made to The Verge, a third party law firm is investigating these claims and Laurent is fully cooperative with the process. Riot have said they're fully committed to ensuring that all claims are “thoroughly explored and appropriately resolved”. In a statement to Daily Esports, they indicated a special committee made up of board directors were overseeing the investigation into the company's CEO.
History of Sexual Harassment Claims
There have been previous allegations of sexual harassment against Riot Games and discrimination in the workplace. Riot’s work environment was first criticized in August of 2018 in a report made by Kotaku.
The thorough exposé included reports of sexism, sexual abuse, gender discrimination and disrespect — specifically towards women. Sources claimed women were intentionally kept from promotions, criticized for the very same things men were applauded for and were often the topic of sexual email threads.
The “bro” culture described by Kotaku also details several instances where male and female employees were subjected to unsolicited images of male genitalia from bosses and colleagues.
Back in December 2018, Scott Gelb, Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Riot Games faced a suspension due allegations of inappropriate conduct. Including hitting male employees in their genitals as a “joke”. At the time he was suspended without pay and required to go through additional training. Gelb is still the current COO at Riot.
In response to allegations made against Gelb and the Kotaku article, Riot announced a 16 month “cultural transformation timeline” to supplement their apology.
Riot Games Ongoing Lawsuit
This isn't the only lawsuit that Riot Games is involved in currently.
Last year female workers filed a class-action lawsuit with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Riot initially offered $10 million USD as a settlement for the 1000 women who claimed gender discrimination and unequal pay. However the settlement was refused. According to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing the class-action could be entitled to as much as $400 million USD.