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Published: March 16, 2021

Written by: Stefan Velikov

  • Accusations of sexual harassment against Riot’s CEO Nicolo Laurent, may lead to Alienware canceling any sponsorship of League of Legends
  • Laurent was accused of misconduct towards Sharon O’Donnell, former executive assistant
  • This isn’t the first time Riot’s employees have been condemned of such behavior which may have prompted Alienware to act

Riot Games get entangled in controversy once more as former executive assistant accuses Riot’s CEO of sexual harassment, which has reportedly led to frictions with Alienware. 

Alienware May Cease Partnership with Riot

A majorly important deal for Riot Games can end in a heartbeat as people close to the matter claim Alienware is going to cancel their partnership early, DotEsports reported. It was originally set to expire in January 2022, but this may now happen ten months earlier. Riot spokesperson says that Alienware is a valuable partner. He couldn’t disclose full details of the ongoing dialogue between the companies, but in the meantime, Riot has already started removing Alienware branding across the board. 

The cancelation of this deal can only mean trouble for Riot as it was supposed to encompass every esports event LoL has to offer (LEC, LCK, LCS, LPL, Mid-Season Invitational, and the World Championship).

Alienware is a gaming hardware company that has been one of the biggest sponsors of the League of Legends esports scene. They currently support Team Liquid as well and have facilities in the USA and the Netherlands. The friction between the hardware company and Riot is due to the latter’s CEO being accused of sexual harassment at the workplace.

O’Donnell’s Accuses Riot’s CEO of Sexual Harassment

Nicolo Laurent, Riot’s Chief executive officer, was condemned and put into a civil lawsuit by former executive assistant Sharon O’Donnell. The latter accused Laurent of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The former executive assistant says that Riot’s CEO made numerous inappropriate remarks to female employees, forcing his views on the necessity of childbirth for stress relief. He also invited O’Donnell to non-business-related trips more than once. O’Donnell also adds that she was baselessly fired last summer when she tried to report the CEO to human resources. 

Riot did defend themselves by saying that O’Donnell’s dismissal wasn’t, in fact, baseless and was because of several complaints against her. The gaming company counter-attacked with an investigation against the former executive assistant. As for Laurent’s behavior, Riot promised that they are taking the allegations seriously and will undergo an investigation by an independent law firm. Should the CEO’s misbehaviors be confirmed, the company will do everything in its power to correct their conduct. 

This Isn’t the First Time Riot Has Had Such Issues

Regardless of how things unfold between O’Donnell and Laurent, the fact remains that for the past years, Riot has been no stranger to controversies. 

The first such controversy came in August 2018 when the video game website Kotaku published reports of sexism and sexual abuse among the internal ranks of Riot. The game company took the allegations to heart and promised to undergo a 16-month-long cultural transformation.

However, just four months later, yet another issue arose as Riot’s chief operating officer Scott Gelb was accused of sexual misbehavior such as touching male colleagues’ genitals. Gelb wasn’t fired but was suspended and made to attend cultural training. 

A year and a half later, as LEC was rolling up in summer 2020, Riot became the target of public outrage yet again. This time fans were less than content by the game company’s choice to collaborate with NEOM – a city development backed by Saudi Arabia, which is known for its mistreatment of women and homosexuals as well as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. 

Riot did not try to defend NEOM, and in fact, their own commentators had some critiques to say. In the end, they did listen to the public and ended the partnership mere days after establishing it. 

On top of all, Riot is currently dealing with another lawsuit as in 2020, and female workers filed a lawsuit where they claimed to be given lower salaries based on their gender. The women refused the $10 million Riot offered as a settlement, and the lawsuit continues. 

As for the ongoing issues concerning the CEO and O’Donnell, Riot promised that would do anything in their power to correct their behavior and resolve everything adequately. Nicolo Laurent has agreed to fully cooperate during this process.

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