Blast has come under fire for signing a partnership with Saudi-backed “future city” NEOM, with numerous popular CS:GO casters including Harry ‘JustHarry’ Russell, Hugo Byron, and Frankie Ward refusing to work with Blast unless they rescind the deal.
Blast’s partnership with NEOM was described as a “record deal” by CEO Robbie Douek. It included helping the Saudi future-city build an esports academy, and even creating a CS:GO map based on the development.
“This is a record deal for BLAST and testament to our recent growth and standing in the industry right now. We have a strong track record when it comes to producing global events that encompass a leading broadcast product and inspire lovers of esports,” Douek said in a July 28 statement.
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
However, since penning the deal nearly two weeks ago, the CS:GO community has been in uproar. With their criticisms falling on deaf ears, casters are taking it a step further — by refusing to appear on Blast broadcasts until the deal is rescinded.
JustHarry, Hugo, Frankie, and Vince Hill are just some of the names who have spoken out against Blast and NEOM. All of them have stated they will not help Blast in any capacity.
“The BLAST x NEOM deal is an opportunity to educate ourselves so that we no longer work with people who would kill our friends,” Frankie said on Twitter. She included a link to a “map of countries that criminalise LGBT people.”
“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,” Russell added.
“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.”
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
If you don’t support human rights then I can’t support you.
BLAST partnering with NEOM does not align with what they claim to stand for.
I stand by Harry, my colleagues and every person who has been persecuted by archaic Governments for being themselves. https://t.co/D50AosBYVz
— Hugo (@HugoooTV) August 5, 2020
Let's be real, I was unlikely to work with blast again, my first and last event with them was back in 2017 at their first event, in Copenhagen. However, my principles are more important than a possible paycheck. I won't be working with them going forward unless the NEOM deal ends
— Vince (@OnFireVince) August 5, 2020
JustHarry and Hugo casted for Blast during the Pro Series in Moscow last year, while Frankie has frequently appeared as a host and interviewer during the tournament organizer’s events. Vince last appeared on a Blast broadcast in 2017.
The NEOM mega-city development is publicly backed by Saudi Arabia, with the Kingdom providing more than $500 billion in funding for the “future-proof” city. The project aims to attract a million new residents.
NEOM also penned a deal with European League of Legends tournament LEC to feature as a sponsor on the Riot broadcast. However, before the ink even dried on the deal, the community revolted, forcing Riot to overturn the partnership less than 24 hours later.
The LEC talent, including Indiana ‘Froskurinn’ Black and Trevor ‘Quickshot’ Henry, also refused to show on the broadcast unless Riot canceled the NEOM partnership.
Blast are yet to comment on the situation. We will update you as more information arises.