Mere days after Riot Games publicly declared a commitment to combating racism and injustice, they've needed to launch an investigation into one of their own executives for posting some real iffy garbage about the police killing of George Floyd on Facebook. It's not the best look for a company still trying to recover from revelations of a rotten workplace culture of discrimination and harrassment. The League Of Legends and Valorant developers have tried to clean up their act and image since 2018's revelations but progress has been stuttering and here we are again.
Update: Riot now tell us that "Ron Johnson is no longer employed at Riot Games."
Vice report that Ron Johnson, Riot's global head of consumer products, shared a loathsome image on his personal Facebook. You can go to Vice to see it if you really want.
"The media and the left have made George Floyd into a martyr, but who was he really?" asks the image, going on to list his criminal record then suggest it's "too bad" Floyd wasn't shot years ago. It's an image which has been doing the rounds, and Johnson isn't the only one in trouble for sharing it.
"This is no reason to condone his killing by the officer at all, which still needs to be investigated as a potential crime," Johnson said in his own message accompanying the image. "It is a learning opportunity for people (and your kids) to teach that this type of criminal lifestyle never results in good things happening to you or those around you."
Which is partially blaming George Floyd for a police officer killing him by pressing a knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Yeah it was Johnson's personal Facebook, but he would seem not a great person to have in a prominent position at a company trying to improve their image (and, who knows, maybe even actually change for the better).
"We've been made aware of the social media post and have launched an investigation," Riot told Vice in response. "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. 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."
Riot's disciplinary track record is not the best. In 2018, after the furore, they investigated chief operating officer Scott Gelb for allegedly farting on employees, tapping their testicles, and humping them. Kotaku reported that his punishment was training and two months' unpaid suspension. Riot also only settled a gender discrimination lawsuit after over 150 employees staged a walkout protesting forced arbitration policies. Their sense of doing the right thing is not strong.
The statement Riot mentioned to Vice was made on Friday by company president Dylan Jadeja, talking about the company's "commitment to drive change." The company are putting $10 million (£8m) "towards investments and startup programs focused on founders underrepresented in the games community." Their plans include funding scholarships, investing in existent education schemes, and helping develop a new curriculum with Florida A&M University, which is historically Black. They also plan to host "a day of conversation on race" at Riot for Juneteenth.
"In order for progress against prejudice and hate to be a reality, we have to have honest and difficult conversations in our households, classrooms, and workplaces," Jadeja said. Yep.
Update: As well as announcing that Johnson was gone and repeating that the image was "abhorrent", the statement from a Riot spokesperson this morning 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. 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. 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."