Riot Games responds to report alleging sexual harassment

Fans pack in Madison Square Garden for the 2016 League of Legends World Championships semifinals. Riot Games, the creator of the popular esports title, has responded to a report detailing a culture of sexual harassment at the company. Robert Paul for ESPN

Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, released a statement on Tuesday reacting to a report in Kotaku documenting allegations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination at the multi-billion-dollar company.

When reached for comment by ESPN, Riot corporate communications lead Joe Hixson released a statement, which in part read:

"This article shines a light on areas where we haven't lived up to our own values, which will not stand at Riot. We've taken action against many of the specific instances in the article, and we're committed to digging in, addressing every issue, and fixing the underlying causes. All Rioters must be accountable for creating an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard, grow their role, advance in the organization, and fulfill their potential."

The Kotaku report cited 28 sources, said to be both current and former Riot Games employees, whose stories ranged from alleged hiring discrimination, unwelcome sexual comments and advancements toward female employees, and a "bro culture" -- a term that Kotaku said was used by many of their sources.

Kotaku also spoke on the record with a number of active Riot employees who disputed the reports of sexual harassment and work discrimination.

"If two Rioters are doing the same job, they're evaluated on a similar criteria," Riot head of platform Oksana Kubushyna, the highest ranked woman in Riot Games' organization chart, told Kotaku regarding the alleged workplace discrimination.

"Talking over women in meetings, promoting/hiring anyone less deserving than anyone else, and crossing the line from assertive to aggressive are three examples of actions that are explicitly opposite to our culture," Riot corporate communications lead Joe Hixson said in a statement on Reddit. "To say that these actions are emblematic of our culture and not an affront to it would be wrong."

"To ensure our aspirational culture becomes a reality and isn't lost in translation, we over-index on cultural reinforcement," the statement continued. "We bake our values into company strategy, leadership attributes, and company-wide programs, systems, and processes. When we encounter any contrary behaviors, we dig in to understand, evaluate, and address. We have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination, harassment, retaliation, bullying, and general toxicity."

In June, Riot Games fired its head North American League Championship Series referee, Raven Keene, and sent out an internal company email to members of its esports staff.

"This separation is neither performance nor head-count based," read the email, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. "Instead it is directly attributable to our commitment to provide all Rioters, in every office around the world, with a safe and welcoming place to work. Complaints about Raven's behavior toward fellow Rioters have led us to believe that we can not achieve this goal with Raven as a member of our team."

Following that firing, several sources, including current and former Riot Games employees, told ESPN that Keene's dismissal was because of alleged sexual misconduct. Riot declined to comment when contacted by ESPN, citing that it has a policy against commenting on personnel matters. But, according to sources, the company then issued another internal email, stating that the incident had been leaked to media and reminding its employees of their non-disclosure agreements.

"We strive to cultivate a unique culture that positions us to best deliver amazing player experiences: one where we obsessively focus on players; one where every Rioter has equal opportunity to be heard, grow their role, advance in the organization, and fulfill their potential; and one where open feedback helps us all get better," Hixson continued in his statement responding to the Kotaku article.

Several current and former Riot Games employees came forward on social media both sharing their experiences with alleged sexual misconduct and sex discrimination. Others stated that they were aware of several of their current or former colleagues who allegedly encountered issues similar to those reported on by Kotaku.