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What just happened? Alienware has reportedly terminated its partnership with Riot Games nearly one year early due to the sexual harassment allegations made against Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent. The hardware maker reportedly voiced concerns over the developer's public image, which has been in the spotlight since a controversial exposé in 2018.
Dot Esports reports that Alienware, one of the biggest advertisers for League of Legends, is terminating a partnership with Riot that was due to expire in January 2022.
Riot confirmed it had removed Alienware branding from all League of Legends broadcasts, though it never revealed why.
"Alienware has been a valuable partner to Riot since January 2019," Riot Games told Dot Esports in a statement. "We can't comment on our agreement with them at this time due to confidentiality obligations. As we continue discussions with them, we have removed their branding from our broadcasts."
A 2018 Kotaku investigation first uncovered rampant sexism at Riot Games, where there was a "bro" office culture that often encouraged harassment. Two women who had worked at the studio sued the company, alleging that they had to endure sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The suit also described how women were paid less than men in the same or similar positions, and how the workplace turned a blind eye to "crotch-grabbing," "phantom humping," and "hot girl" lists.
Riot agreed to pay $10 million to settle the suit in 2019, but the plaintiffs withdrew from the settlement proposal after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an objection, saying the amount was lacking—it wants Riot to pay over $400 million—and made "no enforceable changes to employment policies."
In January 2021, former executive assistant Sharon O'Donnell launched a separate civil lawsuit against Riot CEO Laurent, alleging, among other things, that he fired her when she declined his advances. Riot claims several employees complained about O'Donnell during her time at the company and it opened an independent investigation into her behavior.