LCS walkout: How Riot Games and the players’ association got here

by Brian Bencomo

For the first time in North American esports history, an organized group of players have voted to “walk out” in order to secure a more favorable labor agreement with the league they compete in. That’s why the LCS walkout is such a big deal.

The League Championship Series summer split was scheduled to begin Thursday, June 1, but a vote by League of Legends players in North America’s LCS players’ association put that start date in jeopardy, and Riot has delayed the start of the season by two weeks.

Sign up for the next Nerd Street tournament!

The walk out is in protest of Riot Games’ decision to drop the requirement that LCS teams have a Challengers team. Challengers teams, formerly known as Academy teams, are developmental rosters filled with aspiring LCS pros that compete in the North American Challengers League (NACL). In a nutshell, the LCSPA believes strongly in the importance of the NACL and believes Riot removing the requirement of LCS teams to field a developmental roster would harm the league and the prospects of aspiring League of Legends pros in the region.

How did we get here? Here’s a brief rundown of events over the past month leading up to the walkout vote.

May 6

A report from LCS Eevee revealed that LCS teams had voted unanimously to drop the requirement that they field a Challengers team beginning in 2024 but were pushing to drop the requirement as soon as this summer.

May 12

Riot Games announced several changes to the North American Challengers League. One of the biggest changes was dropping the requirement that LCS teams have an affiliated Challengers team beginning with the summer season of the NACL.

Riot was not doing away with the developmental league, but since it had previously been mostly filled with Challengers/Academy teams for LCS teams, there were a lot of questions about which LCS teams would drop their Challengers teams and how the league would look.

Read more: TenZ reflects on Sentinels’ season and his new role on players association

The LCS players’ association issued a statement expressing its displeasure with the move. The LCSPA appeared to be blindsided by the move as it claimed that it had been assured by Riot that no changes would be made in 2023. The LCSPA claimed that as many as 70 players, coaches and managers would lose their jobs overnight as Riot sought to appease LCS owners looking for financial relief.

The LCSPA also outlined a proposal to help reduce costs for LCS teams in 2024 and beyond, including allowing NACL players to be paid according to local wage laws instead of California laws and allowing LCS teams to partner with affiliates to share costs in operating their NACL teams.


May 23

Washington Post reporter Mikhail Klimentov revealed that the LCSPA would be holding a vote to determine whether the players would walk out in protest of Riot’s decision about NACL. The LCSPA also revealed a list of demands including instituting a promotion/relegation system between LCS and NACL and committing to a revenue pool of $300,000 per NACL team per year.


May 24

Nearly two weeks after Riot’s announcement about the changes to the NACL and after most of the LCS teams dropped their NACL rosters, the 10 teams competing in the NACL for summer 2023 were revealed. Only Evil Geniuses, FlyQuest and Team Liquid were among the 10 LCS teams to retain their Challengers rosters.

Read more: The best events and tournaments at Localhost in April

May 28

The LCSPA announced the players had voted to stage a walkout in protest of Riot’s changes to the NACL. The number of players who voted for and against wasn’t revealed, only that the resolution had “overwhelmingly passed.”


May 29

The LCSPA issued a statement urging North American League of Legends players not to be “scabs” and play for LCS teams looking for replacement players. The LCSPA declared that “crossing the line” would undermine the LCSPA’s ability to negotiate a more favorable agreement.


May 30

With the summer split two days away from starting, Riot announced the season would be delayed by two weeks as it continued to negotiate with the LCSPA. Riot’s response to the demands of the players’ association did not indicate a resolution was close at hand, and the ultimatum it issued was ominous. “​​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,” global head of LoL esports Naz Aletaha said in the statement. “Carrying this forward, if the LCS summer season is canceled, this will also eliminate LCS teams qualifying for 2023 Worlds.”

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

Upcoming Events

Discord Logo

Nerd Street Discord

Discord is our online chatroom and meeting place. Join up to ask admins any questions you have, or just play games with us!

Join Our Discord