A Riot Games executive has been placed on leave after problematic social media posts were unearthed.
Vice reported on a series of social media posts byRon Johnson, Riot's global head of consumer products. Among them was a meme accompanied by a post that suggested the death of George Floyd was due to his “criminal lifestyle.”
“There is no reason to condone his killing by the officer at all, which still needs to be investigated as a potential crime. It is a learning opportunity for people to teach that this type of criminal lifestyle never results in good things happening to you or those around you,” Johnson said.
Attached to the post was an image that says “the media and the left have made George Floyd into a martyr. But who was he really?”
The image then lists Floyd’s criminal record for offenses that occurred between 1998 and 2007. Floyd was killed in police custody in May after allegedly trying to make a purchase with a fake $20 bill.
Floyd's death became global news when a disturbing video of the arrest and his death went viral. The footage vividly showed an officer placing his knee directly on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. This sparked a series of protests around the globe, calling for remedies to racial injustices.
While very few have defended the police officers that were directly involved, some have tried to use Floyd’s criminal history to try and diminish Floyd’s victim status and the larger movement that followed his death.
A number of major companies in the gaming and esports industries spoke out and took action on the matter. Riot Games was among those companies and pledged $1 million to the Innocence Project and American Civil Liberties Union. The company distanced itself from Johnson and reiterated its support for the values that have been highlighted in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
“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,” Riot said.
Riot has been at the center of a number of controversies surrounding both its business practices and corporate culture. A mass walkout of the company stemming from its handling of sexual harassment lawsuits occurred last year. This was followed by a scathing report from the Los Angeles times regarding the company’s work developing software that allowed the Chinese government to monitor the gaming habits of its citizens in League of Legends.
Riot stated that it will not be discussing the investigation or its findings.