One Riot Games executive was fired following controversial George Floyd commentary went viral as Black Lives Matter protests continue to soar. As part of his departure, the studio issued a statement surrounding the nature of his exit and where they go from here.
Ron Johnson quickly found himself with a glaring spotlight on him when he weighed in on the murder of George Floyd as a result of an act of police brutality that acted as a catalyst for the ongoing BLM movement and caused support for this cause to reach global levels. His original remarks regarding the events accompanied an image of George Floyd with a list of past convictions saying, “the media and the left has made George Floyd into a martyr.”
He added that his murder was a death that resulted from his past criminal action, shifting blame from the police officer kneeling on his neck for an extended period of time despite Floyd begging for mercy after stating he “can’t breathe.” The nature of the killing was deliberate and done in a way that sparked righteous anger all over the world, but Johnson didn’t agree. Johnson went on to add, “There is no reason to condone his killing by the officer at all, which still needs to be investigated as a potential crime,” he wrote. “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.”
At an executive level, not just Johnson, but all people in this sort of position of power have a responsibility to their fans and employees to be conscientious at all times about what they are saying and how that messaging is coming across. It’s not about silence, it’s about self-awareness, and the tone-deaf remarks were instantly met with backlash across the gaming community, both gamers and industry personnel alike.
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Ron Johnson is no longer employed at Riot Games. 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.
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.
Johnson was a relatively new addition to Riot Games, having joined the company back in January of this year. Previous employment includes Nickelodeon and Disney.