“WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide,”
World Wrestling Entertainment statement, July 24, 2015
The above statement is wrestling conglomerate World Wrestling Entertainment’s press release following the revelation that Hulk Hogan made incendiary remarks about African Americans.
Hogan, one of the most iconic stars in company history, was swiftly terminated. The WWE removed all mention of Hogan, including related merchandise and paraphernalia bearing his likeness from its website, and may eliminate him from the WWE Hall of Fame. I find company owner Vince McMahon’s reaction to this situation most puzzling, because his company has long perpetuated negative stereotypes of African Americans and members of other minority groups for decades.
I’ve been a professional wrestling fan since childhood and have long admired the highly entertaining story lines and athletic prowess demonstrated by WWE superstars. However, one thing has consistently drawn my ire over the years, and that is the WWE’s untiring negative portrayal of their African American performers. These are just a few of the African American characters the company has used to “entertain” their audience:
- Virgil was the servant for the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase;
- The Godfather portrayed a pimp and was accompanied to the ring by the prostitutes in his aptly titled “Ho Train”;
- Kamala’s gimmick was that of a vile, primitive savage from the jungles of Uganda. He wore face paint and spoke indecipherable nonsense;
- “Cryme Tyme” was a duo who hailed from Brooklyn, had a penchant for thievery, and whose ring attire consisted of muscle shirts, jeans, du-rags, bulletproof vests, and Timberland boots; and
- “The Nation of Domination” parodied the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party.
The company’s depictions of performers of other ethnicity’s have been just as reprehensible.
- Hispanic performers “The Mexicools” portrayed day laborers who rode to the ring on John Deere lawn mowers, and whose wrestling gear was overalls;
- The late Eddie Guerrero’s motto was “I Lie, I Cheat, I Steal”, and he drove customized low riders;
- Muhammad Hassan was a radical Muslim terrorist in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, wore a turban; and
- Rusev is a Russian who continually spews Anti-American rhetoric.
As the above instances illustrate, WWE has long represented members of minority groups in a negative light.
The World Wrestling Entertainment has no problems with depicting minorities with promoting negative stereotypes. So McMahon’s recent response to Hogan’s comments are inconsistent and puzzling. Is he separating the WWE from Hogan because he is truly repulsed by his comments or merely shielding himself from the possible financial repercussions in the loss of sponsors?
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015.