Apex Legends Tournament Sparks Backlash From Queer Fans And Allies

Apex Legends Tournament Sparks Backlash From Queer Fans And Allies

Respawn’s hero shooter battle royale Apex Legends is an incredibly inclusive game for the queer community. It has several playable LGBTQIA+ legends, has given players Pride Flag cosmetics to showcase their identities in-game, and developer Respawn even put a statement supporting trans rights in the game itself. After years of making Apex Legends a safe space for queer players, an announcement that Respawn is taking part in a competitive tournament in Saudi Arabia, a country in which LGBTQIA+ rights are in a dire state, has sparked backlash from the community.

Apex Legends will take part in the Esports World Cup, a multi-game tournament taking place this summer in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Other games featured include Street Fighter 6, Tekken 8, and Overwatch 2, another hero shooter with queer characters in the mix. The April 12 announcement was met with some general excitement about Apex being featured, but others voiced their discomfort with the event being hosted in a territory that criminalizes queer relationships and expression.


Saudi Arabia has criminalized same-sex relationships, activities, and gender expression for trans people as per Sharia law, a legal system based on Islamic scripture. Sex outside of marriage is broadly illegal in the country, and since same-sex marriage is illegal, same-sex relations are considered criminal acts. There have been reports of punishments including the death penalty for engaging in same-sex relations or cross-dressing imposed by Sharia law. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has also instituted laws against public displays of affection and requiring “modest” dress for men and women, but these often result in fines. Officially, Saudi Arabia “welcomes” queer tourists. The official Saudi Arabia tourist site includes the following on its FAQ:

“Everyone is welcome to visit Saudi, and we ask that they follow and respect our culture, traditions and laws, as you would when visiting any other country in the world.

Like other governments around the world, visitors are not required to disclose their personal information and we will strongly respect your right to privacy.”

Given Saudi Arabia’s laws, fans are questioning (somewhat jokingly) if queer characters like pansexual man Fuse or transwoman Catalyst will be playable during the event, or what this will mean for openly queer competitors who may not feel comfortable going to Saudi Arabia for the tournament. No stipulation regarding hero bans is stated in the announcement, rumors about it have been dubbed “misinformation” by members of the community, and posts claiming this have been hit with a Community Note on X (formerly Twitter) calling the notion “satire.” We’ve reached out to Respawn for official comment.

The Esports World Cup has been widely criticized due to it being funded by the Saudi Arabian government. Saudi Arabia has been investing a lot of money into sports, and its esports push is an extension of that. Its motivations have been under public scrutiny and deemed by many as ‘sportswashing,’ or an attempt to distract from its treatment of women and queer folk. Companies have partnered with the event to showcase their games in Saudi Arabia, including Riot, which will host a League of Legends tournament in Riyadh this summer.

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