Seven current and former Rioters reached out to Kotaku on Friday and said they believe systems designer Daniel Klein and communications associate Mattias Lehman were fired because of their public response to a recent controversy surrounding a PAX West event. Riot hosted a number of sessions during the convention to support women and non-binary people interested in professional game development. It offered 1-on-1 resume feedback and presentations on art design, narrative writing, production, and more.
The event was part of Riot’s plans to rehabilitate a workplace culture many current and former employees say is sexist and misogynistic. But, it sparked outrage on the “League of Legends” subReddit, with some fans calling the event “sexist” because it excluded men. Riot told employees not to publicly engage with the controversy, sources tell Kotaku, but Klein and Lehman apparently waded in anyway. Klein called a Reddit thread about the controversy a “toxic landfill” and explained that “sexism against men” makes no sense because “men have the power.”
“Men are RIDICULOUSLY over-represented in gaming; they’re listened to when women are ignored, promoted when women are passed over, lauded for speaking out when women are being called ‘difficult to work with,'” he said.
Lehman, meanwhile, came to Klein’s defense on social media. “Being an ally means listening to, learning from, and standing up with marginalized people. @danielzklein has done that in the years I’ve known and worked with him,” he said. “It’s telling when people spend more time tone policing him than calling out those harassing and threatening him.”
Klein and Lehman’s departures are similar to an incident in July involving two ArenaNet employees. Writer Jessica Price was reportedly fired from that company after engaging in a public argument on Twitter with a YouTuber. Fellow writer Peter Fries was allegedly fired for coming to her defense. At the time, ArenaNet co-founder and president Mike O’Brien said the pair “failed to uphold our standards of communicating with players.”
“Their attacks on the community were unacceptable,” he said.
Variety contacted Riot about Klein and Lehman’s departures. It provided the following statement:
“These departures are independent from our efforts to evolve our culture. Our culture remains our top priority, and we remain committed to taking the steps that we need to become a leader in Diversity & Inclusion. We will always encourage Rioters to share their perspectives, and we fully support efforts by Rioters to further our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. We are committed to making real, positive change in Riot’s culture and internal advocates are a crucial part of making that happen. Beyond that, we can confirm that these individuals are no longer with Riot Games, but we cannot provide further details on personnel issues.”