Ron Johnson, the now-former Global Head of Consumer Products at League of Legends developer Riot Games, has resigned after facing a massive storm of backlash following a Facebook post in which he discussed the criminal background of the recently deceased George Floyd.
On June 10th, Johnson took to his personal Facebook page to offer his opinion on the events and subsequent aftermath of Floyd’s recent officer-involved death.
Accompanied by a picture detailing the known criminal history of Floyd, Johnson opens the post with a condemnation of “his killing by the officer” and calls for it “to be investigated as a potential crime” before going on to suggest that Floyd’s death “is a learning opportunity” for how “this type of criminal lifestyle never results in good things.”
The image text itself concludes with the harsh opinion that it was “too bad [a pregnant woman whom Floyd robbed in her home] didn’t have a gun,” implying that Floyd deserved to die due to his criminal past.
After this post was brought to public attention, Riot Games spoke with Vice and confirmed that the company had “launched an investigation” and placed Johnson “on leave pending its conclusion.”
Riot Games stated, “”We’ve been made aware of the social media post and have launched an investigation. We’ll say firmly that the sentiment in that image is abhorrent, against our values, and directly counter to our belief that addressing systemic racism requires immediate societal change, which we detailed in the commitments we made Friday.”
They added, “While we don’t discuss the details of our investigations or their outcomes, we’re following our disciplinary process closely and have placed him on leave pending its conclusion.”
The next day, Riot Games confirmed to ESPN that Johnson had resigned, and stated that “the image in question is abhorrent” and that they would be “taking thoughtful and deliberate action to help combat racism and injustice in the communities where work and live.”
The Riot spokesperson stated, “The sentiment expressed in the image in question is abhorrent and runs directly counter to our values and our belief that addressing systemic racism requires immediate societal change, something that we’re committed to working toward.”
They added, “As we shared last week, Riot is taking thoughtful and deliberate action to help combat racism and injustice in the communities where we work and live.”
Riot would then support their apology with a commitment to donating “$1 million to areas where we know we can make an impact” and “investing $10 million in founders underrepresented in the games industry.”
The spokesperson explained, “To start, we’re committing $1 million to areas where we know we can make an impact, including justice reform, long-term solutions to address racial bias, and support for local Black-owned businesses.”
They continued, “We’re also striving to change the face of our industry and create opportunities, including by investing $10 million in founders underrepresented in the games industry and helping create a future pipeline of underrepresented talent for the gaming and tech world. We know there is much work to be done, and we vow to do our part.”
Announcing Johnson’s resignation in an internal memo that was obtained by ESPN, Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent stated that “we must respect that everyone is entitled to their own political views”, but opined that “Ron exercised really poor judgement here”, which “resulted in a post that was harmful to many of us and our broader community.”
Laurent wrote, “I won’t comment on Ron’s intentions in posting that particular message, or on any of his political opinions that have been shared in the media or otherwise. We must respect that everyone is entitled to their own political views.”
He added, “However, I have to be honest with you. I believe Ron exercised really poor judgment here. It resulted in a post that was harmful to many of us and our broader community. It was insensitive and in this moment, it undermines the commitment we’ve made to stand against all acts of injustice, racism, prejudice, and hate. It also hinders our ability to create an inclusive environment for our entire community: Rioters, players, and partners alike.”
Laurent concluded, “Ron understands this and recognizes that he will be ineffective as a leader at Riot going forward. As a result, he has resigned, effective today.”