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Volume 25 No. 66
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Mastercard Could End Riot Games Deal If Culture Doesn't Change

Mastercard's global sponsorship with Riot Games comes after the esports company recently "came under fire for its treatment of women employees," and the credit card giant "won’t hesitate to cut ties if the company culture doesn’t improve," according to Jake Seiner of the AP. Mastercard Chief Marketing & Chief Communications Officer Raja Rajamannar said that he "spoke frankly about concerns over Riot’s culture during negotiations" with Riot Head of Esports Partnerships Naz Aletaha. She was able to convince Rajamannar that Riot "was making an earnest effort to improve its inclusivity." Seiner noted video game blog Kotaku published a story last month "detailing a sexist culture at Riot Games that included women being passed over for promotions, unwanted sexual advances and men questioning women about the legitimacy of their video game fandom." Riot later that month apologized to fans and employees and detailed "plans to improve the company’s culture." Mastercard apparently was "encouraged by what Riot has outlined" and decided to "move forward with a partnership two years in the making." Riot's deal with Mastercard serves as a "crucial step" for the game developer in a year when competitors like Overwatch and Fortnite have "grabbed a bigger share of the esports pie." Aletaha said that the partnership also "'validates' Riot’s space in the esport ecosystem." It is also a "first step into the space for Mastercard, which spent years toeing the water before making the leap with 'League of Legends.'" The content of the multiplayer online battle arena video game was a "swaying factor" (AP, 9/18).

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