Riot Games to Echo Fox: Take 'corrective action' against racist shareholder or lose place in LCS

'Hate speech, threats, and bigotry have no place in the LCS,' Commissioner Chris Greeley said in a Twitter post.

It’s an exciting time for esports. With competitive matches of League of Legends and Overwatch airing on the same network as major league sporting events, there’s no denying that esports are a force to be reckoned with — as well as a major revenue driver for players, team owners, and game publishers. That said, it’s still a fairly young facet of the gaming industry, and policy decisions being made today will shape its future and legacy.

Riot Games, the publisher behind the massively successful esports phenomenon League of Legends, made one such decision this week. Following an investigation into “a recent outrageous and abhorrent display of pure racism made by a significant Echo Fox shareholder,” the League of Legends Championship Series has directed the esports organization to take corrective action within 60 days.

The allegations of racist behavior became public last month following the departure of Echo Fox founder (and former NBA player) Rick Fox, who gave racist statements and threats from a major shareholder as his reason for leaving. In an email to shareholders, Fox said, “I will not support or be associated with such behaviour and attitudes displayed at the shareholder level. Racism is an anathema to what my personal brand strives for and tolerating any form of discrimination such as this is not acceptable.”

After Fox’s abrupt departure, the LCS launched its own investigation into Fox’s claims. Commissioner Chris Greeley announced the results of the “preliminary” investigation yesterday: Echo Fox must part ways with its racist shareholder or risk its participation in the league.

“The LCS has concluded its preliminary investigation into the alleged comments made by a member of the Echo Fox ownership group. Hate speech, threats, and bigotry have no place in the LCS. We have directed Echo Fox to take appropriate corrective action within 60 days,” Greeley said in a two-part Twitter post. “If Echo Fox does not take action by removing any individuals whose actions violate League rules and agreements within the required time period, the League will take formal action that may adversely impact the future of Echo Fox in the LCS.”

Riot Games has had plenty of its own bad press in the last year, which ultimately resulted in a very public employee walkout earlier this month, but it looks like it got this one right. The LCS could have ignored this issue and let Echo Fox handle it internally, but instead it took a stand, and other esports leagues should follow suit.

Yes, stating that racism is bad is an incredibly low bar to clear, but not everyone makes it over the hurdle (just see any number of replies calling Riot a “SJW company” for proof). As esports becomes more mainstream, it’s important for it to establish itself as an industry that does not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, or hateful intolerance of any kind. Hopefully, this is just the first step.

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Sarah LeBoeuf is a freelance writer and editor with over a decade of experience in games media. When not writing about video games or playing video games, you can find her drinking obscene amounts of coffee, snuggling her cat, planning her next trip to Disney World, or starting fights on Twitter @sarahthebeef.

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