Riot Games’ former global head of consumer products Ron Johnson resigned last night, according to ESPN. He was under internal investigation after he shared a Facebook image downplaying the death of George Floyd.
Johnson was placed on leave on June 10 after he made a post that questioned the motives behind the media and public attention on Floyd’s death. The post also outlined Floyd’s criminal record and alleged that he used methamphetamine and was a danger to others prior to his death.
“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,” a Riot spokesperson said. “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.
The company will donate $1 million to organizations focused on justice reform, long-term solutions to address racial bias, and support for local black-owned businesses. Riot also plans to create more opportunities in the game industry by investing $10 million in “founders underrepresented and helping create a future pipeline of underrepresented talent for the gaming and tech world,” the spokespoerson said.
The image that Johnson shared contained crimes Floyd allegedly committed during his lifetime and was accompanied by the former Riot employee’s commentary, saying that his death was justified by his “criminal lifestyle.”
Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent also sent out an internal note to employees announcing Johnson’s resignation last night and ESPN obtained a copy of it. Laurent declined to inform employees of measures taken within the investigation but said it would regroup in a regularly scheduled, all-hands meeting soon.
“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,” Laurent said to his staff. “We must respect that everyone is entitled to their own political views.
Laurent disagreed with the post and said “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.” He said that it harms the company’s ability to develop an inclusive environment for its community, “Rioters, players, and partners alike.”
Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd’s death has led to several protests against systemic racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world.
Many game publishers have supported these protests and taken action to combat systemic racism by donating to organizations working against racial injustice and by organizing internal activities.