Petition prevents Rainbow Six Siege esports event from taking place in United Arab Emirates
Update — February 22, 17:41 GMT: Ubisoft has confirmed it will relocate the Stage 2 Major following community outreach. The developer maintained that the tournament would have been an event "in which anyone, of all gender identities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, or other individual traits, would be included and welcomed."
Despite apparent certainty that the event would have been safe, Ubisoft assured the community that they'd be moving the event to an unspecified location but it would also continue "developing and structuring [its] competitive activities" in the Middle Eastern region.
Ubisoft announced plans on February 20 to host a major Rainbow Six Siege esports event in the United Arab Emirates and the community isn't happy about it.
The basics: The controversy somewhat fits into a larger narrative currently hitting esports: sportswashing.
- Ubisoft revealed in the roadmap for Siege esports' seventh year that the Stage 2 Major would be hosted in the United Arab Emirates come August 2022.
- The Rainbow Six Siege developer has previously been welcoming and supportive to the LGBT community, through means such as introducing gay and trans operatives to the game and having lesbian and trans broadcast talent (Jessica "JessGOAT" Bolden and Emi "CaptainFluke" Donaldson, respectively) working at major tournaments like last week's Six Invitational.
- Through the plans to host an event in the United Arab Emirates, many in Siege's competitive community feels as if Ubisoft is operating against the support and embrace it has given its LGBT community members. This is due to the state of human rights in the country, including that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is a crime that's punishable with death, life in prison, deportation, chemical castration, and other punishments.
The challenge: As of two days ago, a petition by Ellie Chapman is calling for the event to be relocated.
- At the time of publication, the petition has been signed by almost 12,000 people.
- Chapman states that "we believe as a collective that this decision is short-sighted, dangerous and backwards to the developing ideology of esports."
- The movement has been supported by those both inside and outside of the game's competitive scene, including casters Geo Collins, Parker "INTERRO" Mackay, and the aforementioned CaptainFluke, as well as veteran Siege competitors such as Gabriel "LaXInG" Mirelez.
The larger picture: In recent years, the esports community at large has been fighting the Middle East's attempts to integrate into the top flight of the industry.
- Riot Games and BLAST both ended deals with NEOM, a state-sponsored Saudi city development, following fan and industry backlash in 2020.
- More recently, the proposed $1.5B acquisition of both ESL and FACEIT by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund — the same fund that acquired Premier League football club Newcastle United in 2021 to much criticism — was a source of contention among community members.