JessGOAT explains U-turn on Saudi stance amid Gamers8 criticism

Jess Valorant MastersColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Popular Rainbow Six caster Jessica ‘JessGOAT’ Bolden has released a statement on Twitter explaining her attendance at Gamers8 after criticizing the event and Saudi Arabia last year.

JessGOAT has walked back her previous criticism of events held in Saudi Arabia amid the 2023 edition of Gamers8, which is currently taking place in the nation’s capital, Riyadh, and features a whopping $45 million prize pool.

Her comments come a year after she called out fellow casters who worked at Gamers8 2022. She was initially in talks with the event organizers about working there but decided not to in the end due to safety concerns.

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“Out of all of the places in your entire region [MENA] that you probably shouldn’t hold something, Saudi Arabia is absolutely one of them,” JessGOAT said on stream last year about the tournament. “It’s so funny to me because people are going to find excuses for it. Like every f***ing excuse under the sun they can find and then that people that worked it are going to be like, ‘I needed the opportunity.’ Shut the f*** up.”

On July 13, a week into Gamers8, the R6 and Valorant analyst said that she made those comments over a year ago out of fear.

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JessGOAT explained in her statement that she was in negotiations with tournament organizers ESL to attend Gamers8 and that she wanted to represent women and the LGBT community at the event. However, she said she started to receive “serious messages” and withdrew from the event in 2022 out of fear for her safety.

Saudi Arabia has been criticized in the past for its human rights record, and more specifically its stance on LGBT issues.

JessGOAT reverses course on Gamers8

She explained that ESL, now ESL FACEIT Group, reached out again this year to ask for her services for social media and content around Gamers8. JessGOAT said that after arriving in the country, her fears have subsided thanks to the “amount of respect and professionalism that has been afforded to me.”

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“I spoke with EFG and expressed deep shame for the emotional comments I made last year and can only hope that this experience adds to the growth I have made this year and is a lesson to never speak on high emotions, rather think it through and with kindness and respect,” JessGOAT said.

The Australian won the Esports Desk Analyst of the Year award at the 2022 Esports Awards. In an exclusive interview with Dexerto, she spoke about her journey in esports and what motivates her to keep pushing boundaries in the industry.

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