WWE has something of a humanitarian crisis on its hands, and they don’t seem aware of it.
Shockingly, no, this is not a story about the crappy working conditions to which they subject their employees and “independent contractors.” They’re very aware of that one.
Over the last 10 years or so, WWE has publicly committed itself to various causes. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are very active with their Connor’s Cure initiative, which is wonderful. The company acknowledges breast cancer awareness every October, in partnership with the Susan G. Komen foundation which is — well-intentioned? I guess?
We’ll come back to that last one.
It’s not exactly news that any corporation’s attention to causes is strictly for show. It’s all PR. And WWE is no exception.
But few companies are as likely to talk out of both sides of their mouth at the exact same time as World Wrestling Entertainment.
Here are just a couple examples of how badly WWE plays the Humanitarian Games.
Pride Month And That Sweet Saudi Money
Pride Month, celebrating the LGBTQ community, is currently in full swing in the United States.
And WWE announced that it will send some of its superstars to a fundraising concert for GLAAD, one of the country’s foremost LGBTQ advocacy groups.
According to a tweet from the company’s PR page, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, and former Divas Champion Paige will be in attendance at the show in Nashville.
— WWE Public Relations (@WWEPR) June 6, 2019
It’s especially great for Deville, who came out as a lesbian on an episode of WWE Tough Enough in 2015. She is currently the only openly gay woman on the WWE roster.
So honest and genuine kudos to WWE and to these women for their support of this cause. Having said that, aside from Renee Young and Natalya, what else are they supposed to do this weekend? The women’s roster isn’t exactly welcomed by WWE’s current hosts.
The company is gearing up for its Super Showdown WWE Network special in Saudi Arabia. A country that has a history of fining, beating, imprisoning, and executing LGBTQ people. For the time being, let’s table everything else that’s problematic about WWE’s relationship with the Saudi royal family and just focus on this.
At the same time they’re pushing a feel-good human interest story about promoting love and acceptance (see the hashtag), they’re taking money from a country that has been active in curtailing that kind of progress.
I don’t mind a company being hypocritical, and I don’t even mind them being brazen about it. That’s life with corporate America, I understand that. What I mind is the fact that WWE seems completely and legitimately unaware of this contradiction.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say all decisions were being green-lit by a 73-year-old, out-of-touch crazy man.
Komen and Roman
So. The Susan G. Komen foundation.
As with the Saudis, we’re going to put aside some problematic issues with the foundation itself. That’s a story for someone way smarter than me to write.
What we’re going to look at instead is how horribly tone-deaf WWE is when it comes to its relationship with the foundation, which began in 2011. Every October, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, WWE goes all out. Superstars start selling pink versions of their merchandise, the ring ropes are pink, and there’s a plug for Susan G. Komen in every commercial break.
Great. A big American corporation using its platform for something good. What could possibly go wrong?
Roman Reigns found out in late 2018 that the leukemia that had been in remission for years had returned. Reigns cut an emotional promo announcing the diagnosis and his departure from WWE programming while he fought the illness off.
It was all heartwarming and emotional, until WWE’s writers started working the illness into their heels’ promos. Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose each delivered verbal low blows about the situation in the following weeks.
Ambrose, now Jon Moxley in AEW, made clear his feelings on having to take cheap shots at a friend’s real-life struggle on Chris Jericho’s podcast last week.
Reigns announced his diagnosis on October 22, 2018. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And WWE barely let the dust settle before they sent talent in front of the camera to talk smack about it.
Why didn’t the Komen people raise a stink? Well, whether your cause is righteous or not, money can be exchanged for goods and services. But WWE’s sheer lack of self-awareness in this situation is pretty inexcusable.
Vince, Take Your Pills
For a company this big, that’s beholden to stockholders and has a fiduciary responsibility for its right and left hands to know what one another is up to at all times, these are unforgivably stupid mistakes.
We can complain all we want about Vince McMahon being tone deaf to the fans, to television viewers, or even to common sense when it comes to creative. That’s an old battle, and that’s one that’ll rage until Vince dies at his desk in 2079, 30 some years after we’ve all been wiped out by Skynet.
But for nobody to say, “Vince, maybe let’s just let Pride Month ride this year.” For nobody to say, “Hey, Vince, maybe we don’t make Roman’s cancer a storyline point.”
It’s irresponsible on a ridiculous number of levels.
All images courtesy of WWE.