Riot Co-Founder Courageously Tweets, Deletes ‘Critical Race Theory’ Dog Whistle

Riot Co-Founder Courageously Tweets, Deletes ‘Critical Race Theory’ Dog Whistle
Photo: Vivien Killilea, Getty Images

“Critical race theory” is the right’s latest buzz phrase in service of silencing discussion of America’s racist past and how it informs the country’s still very racist present. Last night, Riot co-founder and chairman Marc Merrill tweeted and quoted an article about how critical race theory is “a threat” from a journalist whose work informed Donald Trump’s now-rescinded 2020 executive order that heavily restricted federal diversity training.

On Twitter, the piece’s author, Christopher F. Rufo, described critical race theory as “the dominant ideology of America’s public institutions” and promoted his recent article as “a short primer” in which he explains “what critical race theory is, why it’s a threat to Americans of all racial backgrounds, and what you can do to fight it.”

Merrill retweeted Rufo’s tweet and added a quote from the piece: “Above all, we must have courage, the fundamental virtue required in our time: courage to stand and speak the truth, courage to withstand epithets, courage to face the mob, and courage to shrug off the scorn of elites.”

Merrill, the wealthy founder of one of the biggest video game companies in the world, later deleted the tweet, clarifying that he’s “a fan of [Martin Luther King Jr’s] ‘common humanity’ moral framework — not the ‘common enemy’ moral framework.” He added that “we should be fostering unity to come together and heal — not division. The question is how?” This is an interesting tack to take, in light of MLK’s own words.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” MLK wrote in his 1963 letter from Birmingham Jail, “who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’”

Merrill went on to link his own 2019 blog post, in which he correctly identifies many of the corrupting elements currently present in America’s political system (Citizens United, etc), as well as other factors that have led to widespread division. But the blog also proposes flawed solutions to deeply rooted problems and equivocates figures like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

In the piece, Merrill touches some on his own political donations, largely in service of “democracy reform initiatives.” Merrill’s donation history on, a database of federal campaign contributions and lobbying data, shows that he’s mostly donated to Democrats, with a few Republicans here and there. His biggest donation took place in 2018, when he gave $US125,000 ($161,488) to the Centrist Project Election Fund.

Merrill, whose company continues to battle against litigation stemming from its own history of sexism, is one of many increasingly wealthy video game executives who’ve gotten involved in politics over the years. The list also includes Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who has made sizable donations to numerous Republican politicians and who recently hired two of them: former Donald Trump administration member Brian Bulatao and Bush-era counterterrorism appointee Frances F. Townsend. All of which is to say: What people like Merrill say matters. A tweet is more than just a tweet when you have the money and power to back it up.


  • Racist dudes always want to bring MLK into this, but they forget that he got assassinated. And also that there were massive national riots afterwards which were still going when the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed by the President. The whole story is about change through violence.

    • So your comment is nothing but political activism to push a political agenda, trying to harm someone who published something you don’t agree with politically?

      And Kotaku is whatever it wants to be, because that’s what free speech is. It’s within their rights to publish an opinion. I do think a legitimate complaint would be that such articles should be marked as “opinion” as is often the case in the mainstream press. But that’s not your argument. Your argument is that it should be, how you say, cancelled?

    • “Kotaku is supposed to be a video game news site”. Where does that say that? Also, if it was strictly a news site, just like with every other news site, it is full of all kinds of news, opinion, and everything in between. Indeed Kotaku has always been closer to a blog site than other strictly games news sites.

      What is so bad if someone has an opinion? Just because you dont agree that doesnt make its publications wrong, just something you dont like. Given they charge us absolutely nothing to view, as a consumer of their product you really dont have a say it what they produce.

    • Jesus Christ. I’ve been hearing the same “but all I want is that Kotaku doesn’t become a political/social justice/wokeness activism cesspool” since like 2014. And through the years of Kotaku continuingly carrying on with this exact same style and content, every new post that is not perceived to fall exactly and solely in the intersection of the topics “videogames” AND “news” is decried as yet another step towards this assumed decline.

      Friend, if back in the day where you first accessed Kotaku a little devil appeared and told you “hereby, we are solemnly contracted to deliver to you exclusively gaming news should you sell your soul to us” and you agreed, I’m sorry to say that you were had by an imp not associated with this website.

      I understand that it stings to lose your eternal soul just like that, but please stop karenning Kotaku’s management about this unfulfilled deal. They are, in fact, not oath-bound to serve you and thus, shouldn’t change the type of content that they very clearly have been intent in producing and serving for several years for your sake. Your endless dissatisfaction can be ended by simply walking away.

    • Just like with all forms of art, politics can not be removed from them. No matter how manner desperate reddit users get upset cos they think games are only for ‘fun’.

  • Critical race theory is in and of itself a racist piece of shit. The last thing people should do is give it oxygen of any form.

  • I have no idea what this article is saying…. is it saying that he disagreed with Critical Race Theory, so is progressive, or is it saying he somehow supports CRT and is a MAGA-supporter? Generally when you say “dog whistle” it means to use a stereotype (built inherently on fear) to gain popularity. The byline here suggests he was trying to support race theory, but the text suggests he was supporting someone critical of it. The article then suggests the hypocrisy of Merrill (against the standards of MLK). I’m sorry, I don’t have any problem with someone putting out their personal view, or someone later re-thinking their posts – but to put forward such a poorly-written, ill-considered, and I would think ill-conceived, piece of writing is just dangerous for a ‘entertainment’ company. Before you start quoting MLK, firstly, you should perhaps look a little honestly at yourselves. Unless I’ve mistaken, Kotaku Australia is published by Pedestrian Group – owned entirely by Nine Entertainment… a trashy, right-leaning media conglomerate in Australia.

    For the record – I totally agree with the fallacy of critical race theory – however, I also think that if you’re a writer, you may also want to be a little awake to who pays your bills – and while you may think it adds to the “independence”, it equally adds to the noise of indifference.

    If I’m wrong about the commercial side of things, then I do apologize in advance (and will edit my comment). But I do want to understand the elements at play. . when someone starts talking dog whistles.

    • Just to clarify a few things, while is owned by Nine Australia, it is very much left leaning, but Kotaku is part of the Gawker group.. Who are, from what I gather, all left-leaning (including Kotaku)

      And Grayson is an American writing for Kotaku US, but that doesn’t exactly lend any credentials to knowing anything about MLK or what he stood for. He’s just another of the “white liberals” that Malcolm X talks about

  • By getting pissy when CEOs etc with opinions you don’t like air their views but are perfectly ok with ones that agree with you (in Aus that would be the likes of QANTAS etc) shows that you just want to shut down debate.

    • Would you like to debate in favour of “critical race theory” or are you just doing that thing where you’re desperate to seem like you’re pointing out some very smart point while also coincidentally supporting actual nazis?

      • I just get annoyed when companies stick their heads out with anything to do with anything pretty much. I miss the old days when companies would make/sell/whatever and leave it at that.

        But my point was that if you’re ok with one group being able to talk up you should be ok with the other. If you deign everyone who disagrees with you a nazi then your world lacks nuance and true humanity.

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