Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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WWE and contradictions

Op-ed by Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
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As many people know, June is Pride Month for the LGBT community.

WWE recently had several of its talent commenting on how it affects them, first including Sonya Deville, the only out LGBT performer on the WWE rosters (who nicely had a rainbow towel in her gear on TV last week who said:

“Every story shared, every voice heard.. thank you to Pat and all those who have influenced us with courage and strength to be who we are. I am happy to be a voice for those still struggling today. “

Other commenting as part of the montage include Finn Balor… noted for his LGBT advocacy, as well as Charlotte Flair, Seth Rollins, Xavier Woods, Alastair Black, Dana Brooke, Renee Young, Mandy Rose, Carmella, Aiden English, Alexa Bliss, Kofi Kingston, and many more…

The montage of Pride Month photos and statements can be found at this link.

While this is a first for WWE, and while the comments made within the montage are all heartfelt, including one from a WWE announcer who just had a family member come out; WWE got bombed on social media by people calling them out on the contradiction of celebrating Pride Month on their online media and doing business with a Saudi government that has a death penalty on the books for consensual LGBT sex.

But the criticism got worse still when Dana Hellwig (Warrior) tweeted the following….in full Ultimate Warrior makeup:

Her comments drew nuclear heat, as her late husband Jim Hellwig, aka Ultimate Warrior, became well known as a vicious homophobe before his death. Here is part of just one of his most notorious rants; with epithets censored:

“the most enlivening emotional outbursts erupted when homosexuals were offended by my use of the word “q&#$r.” One guy without his husband and two physically-repulsive %#!@&-%$&@s slurping on one another’s tongues (really) on the front row had a real hard time cozying up to my principled heterosexual obstinacy. So, in an act of pure selfish pleasure, the guy got himself physically thrown out by the masculine security guard, unmistakably loving every single masochistic, man-handled moment of it.”

Dana Hellwig is obviously her own woman with her own more compassionate and caring views and is more than entitled to share them. But drawing attention to her late husband with the “Warrior” makeup was misguided at best. She’s claimed her late husband had a change of heart late in life due to their daughters, which I’d very much like to believe…but there’s no proof of that available.

WWE has allowed Finn Balor to push for LGBT rights, including his notable Wrestlemania 34 entrance where he brought a crowd of LGBT people on stage to share his entrance with his costume featured giant rainbow accents, and the New Orleans locals behind him wore his new, rainbow-inspired “Balor Club is for Everyone” t-shirt with 20% of the proceeds from the t-shirt going to GLAAD organization.

At the very same time WWE does the Pride Month montage, they air The Revival being “secretly recorded” while shaving each other’s backs while wearing only towels, followed by not-so-thinly jokes which was taken by some as homophobic, masked as questioning the wrestlers’ manhood. The segment was re-aired more than once, despite heavy criticism.

At the same time on the other side of the equation, WWE’s Pride Month montage isn’t a one-off, as the company has done things in the past like give fans at a North Carolina house show information against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2 which discriminated against transgender Carolinians using bathrooms and banned local anti-discrimination laws.

So WWE has a mixed record on LGBT issues in recent weeks and overall. All this coming together at the same time draws more attention to the contradictions between what WWE says and what they do. The timing of their online campaign is coincidental at best, and PR deflection at worst.

With the rare exception of companies like Ben and Jerry’s, I understand that corporations don’t set out to be social justice warriors, but profit-making entities designed to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that. But at a certain point, these kinds of major contradictions, and what seems obvious attempts at PR deflections from difficult PR situations just adds to the PR problems WWE is dealing with after the last Saudi show and their agreement with the Saudis altogether.

Until next time…

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