A Riot Games executive who had been under internal investigation after sharing a Facebook image downplaying the death of George Floyd has resigned, the company confirmed to ESPN on Thursday.
Ron Johnson, who had served as Riot's global head of consumer products since December, was placed on leave Wednesday after he made a post that questioned motives behind 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 told ESPN. "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."
Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent sent out an internal note to employees announcing Johnson's resignation Thursday night, a copy which was obtained by ESPN. Laurent declined to inform employees of measures taken within the investigation, but said they 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 wrote to his staff. "We must respect that everyone is entitled to their own political views.
"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.
"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."
Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. Video of what happened showed Floyd handcuffed on the ground, pleading for his life and saying, "I can't breathe." He became unresponsive and was pronounced dead a short time later.
Chauvin and three other officers at the scene were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department the following day. A third-degree murder charge against Chauvin was upgraded June 3 to second-degree murder, while charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter were brought against the other officers.
Floyd's death has led to increased conversation about racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and has sparked protests in more than 750 U.S. cities and others across the globe.