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Should MrBeast Be Able to Buy an LCS Team?

Nikhil Kalro

Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, the popular content creator, has announced his intent to buy an LCS team. MrBeast made the statement while appearing as a guest at League of Legends Worlds 2022. While he wasn’t able to provide a timeline for when he means to go about the acquisition, he suggested that it might take place within two years. Rumors about the same had been circulating for a few weeks prior to his appearance, and this was the confirmation that interested parties were looking for.

mrbeast lcs

Image Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images/YouTube

It should come as no surprise that the content creator diverted some attention to himself just before the final between DRX and T1. MrBeast has transcended his YouTube beginnings by becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur. He has got a virtual restaurant chain called MrBeast Burger, and it’s only natural that he’s looking to expand that brand a bit further.

MrBeast’s Connection to the Gaming Community

He is a massive name within the YouTube community, with the highest number of subscribers on the platform, and already has a separate gaming channel called MrBeast Gaming. The esports and video game audience is one that he’s familiar with, which is part of the reason why he was invited as a guest for LoL Worlds – and why this seems like a safe investment.

Having gained some experience monetizing his content in this sector and running a large operation on the whole, he does appear to be more than equipped to handle the acquisition of a LCS team. Part of the motivation for this acquisition seems to be that teams from the North American region don’t have the best record in the competition, and MrBeast has got a real opportunity to turn that around whenever he decides on buying a team.

Not the First Big Name to Invest in Esports

Celebrities from the sports world, Hollywood, the music industry, and others have been putting their money into esports teams. MrBeast is a celebrity in his own right, but his connection to the esports audience suggests he won’t be investing in a team for purely cosmetic reasons.

He has already stated his intentions: that he wants to take a North American LCS team to the finals. The same can’t be said for all celebrities that invest in an esport. MrBeast will, of course, have people who are far more suited to building rosters take on all the operational obligations, but he’ll clearly have a say in the larger vision.

This is the ideal ownership model for any sports team, and the same goes for an esport team, but the question of who can or should own an esport team does arise when someone who’s mostly just considered a popular YouTuber by the masses is being permitted to own an esports team.

Who Should Own an Esports Team?

Esports on the global scale is still a fairly new phenomenon, but in 2017 it was established that the LCS would follow a franchise model – as is the case with most popular American leagues like the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL. This clearly suggests that monetary gains are a big pull for investors.

This is different to something like the English Premier League, where owners are still seen as custodians by the communities that follow the clubs, and the relegation/promotion feature doesn’t always guarantee lots of monetary returns. There are no salary caps on players in European soccer leagues, which is why owners have to make certain that they’re getting into the investment of a club with sporting achievement as a primary objective.

Such guarantees can’t be made in franchise competitions because there isn’t a lot of jeopardy for not achieving honors. The jeopardy comes from esports still being quite a new competitive sport, with linear growth of leagues not guaranteed.

The Sportswashing Phenomenon

Having said that, even European soccer leagues have had to face big questions about ownership following a failed campaign to start a European Super League in 2020. The league hasn’t been able to stop nation states who are looking to wash their reputations from owning teams either. 

Only recently, English soccer giants Chelsea had to transfer ownership following the Russian invasion of Ukraine because the former owner was on the receiving end of economic sanctions. Many leading pundits have spoken about having an independent regulator to avoid this kind of situation repeating itself in soccer. 

Riot Games currently organizes LoL esports, and there’s been no talk of having an independent regulator. For now, the LoL esports scene isn’t big enough to command more regulatory bodies. Riot themselves have got to make sure that owners are fit to own teams.

When it comes to sportswashing, esports hasn’t done a lot to combat this. Saudi Arabia, a nation that has been criticized for its human rights abuses and its involvement in the conflict with Yemen, has promised to become an esports hub in the coming years; they already own several-billion dollar stakes in game publishers such as Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two Interactive.

The Risk of MrBeast’s Acquisition

When considering some of the issues that arise when discussing ownership, MrBeast’s potential investment seems a quite minor event. But it also goes to show that there aren’t many barriers to owning an esports team.

For fans who might be concerned by the statement, the first thing that they’re really looking at is his age. MrBeast is only 24 years old; but he isn’t an ordinary 24-year-old, of course. MrBeast has also been credited with ethically sourcing the products that go into making the burgers in his restaurant chain, and he seems to have the sort of jovial personality that will be welcomed by most LoL esports stakeholders.

It is exactly what the North American scene of LoL esports is currently lacking, and his addition could be crucial to reinvigorating the region’s competitive LoL space. His net worth is reportedly around $54 million as of 2021, which goes to show what a big figure he is in the digital space, and it could push other individuals with such a status into the LCS. 

There has been one concerning report around MrBeast, however. A New York Times report revealed that around 11 employees of his had complained that he had created a toxic workplace environment, and frequently belittled these employees.

MrBeast also has a following that takes offense when anything is said against him, which is additional baggage that LCS and Riot Games could do without. The defense usually laid by MrBeast’s most ardent followers is that his charming personality and philanthropy project a very different individual than the one that has been described by some of his employees.

The esports industry has got a reputation of not creating the most welcoming environment, and fans have also been criticized for contributing to that. That is, of course, not something that will prevent regulators from letting him buy a team, but is something to certainly keep an eye on.

Esports Continues to Grow in Popularity

Esports is not currently in the same bracket, as far as viewership goes, with most of the major sports in the world, but as the world heads into a more digital future, it’s hard not to see it growing into something comparable.

Getting someone with collectively close to 200 million subscribers on YouTube to actively take part in helping build the esport feels like too big an opportunity to miss, and when the time comes, there’s unlikely to be any barrier preventing someone like MrBeast from entering this industry.

There must be a few barriers to entry, an independent regulator, and more checks on who owns a side, but the esports industry’s desperation to grow will not allow for these regulatory processes to come in any time soon. Fans, at the end of the day, just want to see the best players perform, and the players want to have the conditions that allow them to perform at their best.

Ownership only becomes a problem when it disrupts this process. As long as the sport feels competitive, and has the fans and players ahead of every other stakeholder’s interest, things should be just fine.