League Of Legends Pro Players Are Striking, Riot Threatens To Cancel Season
Riot Games is not playing nice with players who unanimously voted to walk out over changes to the developmental North American Challenger’s League.
Pro League of Legends players in North America initiated a walk out earlier this week, with representative body the LCS Players Association announcing that the vote "overwhelmingly passed." Riot Games has now responded to the strike action with a statement that threatens to cancel the upcoming LCS summer season, leaving the region without a representative at 2023 Worlds.
The action started in protest to a rules change whereby Riot Games no longer requires teams competing in the top-level LCS league to also field a team for the developmental-level NACL league, PC Gamer reported. A number of teams immediately cut their NACL rosters in response to the change, which according to the LCS Players Association, impacted at least 70 jobs including players, coaches, and managers.
The LCSPA voted to strike on May 28, after the association deemed Riot's new NACL plan unsatisfactory for players. "This is not a decision LCS players have come to lightly," the LCSPA said in a statement on Twitter. "Joining hands to put competition aside is a testament to the significance and urgency of the issues at hand."
The organization has released a list of asks for Riot, which includes instituting a set salary pool of $300,000 for NACL teams, as well as a number of regulatory changes that would benefit both LCS and NACL-level players.
Since the strike was actioned, the LCSPA has said that it's aware of teams trying to recruit scab players for the start of the season. It has subsequently asked all non-LCS players to be aware of the action, and not to agree to play for any LCS org as a replacement. "The walkout is for the benefit of all League players in North America," the statement reads.
Riot has now published a lengthy statement on the strike, not long after meeting with the LCSPA, according to a Kotaku report. The statement focuses on the need for "a sustainable, economically viable, predictable league," using this goal to justify the changes it has made to the NACL.
Riot announced in its statement that it would delay the start of the LCS season for two weeks, but could not delay any further than that, threatening to cancel the entire season--and North America's chance to have a team at Worlds--if teams are not ready to compete by that deadline.
"Delaying beyond the two-week window would make it nearly impossible to run a legitimate competition, and in that case, we would be prepared to cancel the entire LCS summer season. Carrying this forward, if the LCS summer season is canceled, this will also eliminate LCS teams qualifying for 2023 Worlds."
Riot also addressed the LCSPA's list of demands, in almost every instance rejecting the ask with an explanation of why it isn't viable or isn't necessary. The language is particularly harsh on the LCSPA's request for a $300,000 revenue pool for NACL player salaries, with Riot responding:
"This ask is for multiple millions in subsidies for the NACL. That simply isn’t sustainable – and to be brutally honest, it shouldn’t be necessary. We have other Tier 2 leagues around the world which thrive on their own, and we believe the NACL can get to that place too."
LCSPA has released another statement since Riot's response, beginning with, "One thing is back in clear focus: Players are the LCS. Without players, there is no league, and there is no esport." The player organization reiterates that it was excluding players from the decision-making process that spurred the walk out to begin with.
The organization has said that it's requested daily meetings with Riot to reach a resolution on this issue, and plans for those discussions to result in "meaningful collaborative action to get our players back where they want to be: competing for fans on the LCS stage."
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