We’ve all seen those promos on WWE television. Various WWE Superstars gathering and voicing their opinions about the evils of bullies and how important it is for all of us to put a stop to it. They talk about the “be a STAR” program which is dedicated to creating a “positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation through grassroots efforts beginning with education and awareness.”
The “be a STAR” program asks you to take the “be a STAR Pledge.” One of the parts of that pledge reads “I pledge to: Work with others including caring adults, students and friends to create a bully-free environment for everyone.” It is a nice idea, and a good program. Who isn’t in favor of stopping bullies from ruining lives and devaluing others? The problem is that the first sentence on their webapge says “be a STAR is an anti-bullying alliance co-founded by The Creative Coalition and WWE.”
You read that correctly. WWE is a “co-founder” of an “anti-bullying alliance.” Apparently, though, that alliance doesn’t apply to their own company or television product, right? It wasn’t too long ago that WWE faced heat with the “be a STAR” program due to their treatment of Vickie Guerrero. Remember when they had both superstars and announcers alike calling her fat each and every week? WWE was at a minimum unaware and at a maximum unconcerned that calling a woman “fat” week in and week out could, by and large, be considered bullying.
So, they stopped. Now they just make subtle jokes that she’s ugly. Much better, right? It doesn’t end with Vickie Guerrero though. Wrestling is an industry that revolves around bullying, doesn’t it? A heel comes down, push people around, lies and cheats to get what he or she wants and then it is up to the babyfaces to stand up against the bully. It’s an age old story, it’s been going on in the industry since its inception and it satisfies the fans. People like to see a bully “get his.” There’s nothing wrong with that. There is, however, something incredibly wrong with the other bullying that goes on behind the scenes and, even sometimes, on our televisions.
There has been a running joke behind the scenes for quite a while in which people say that ring announcer Lillian Garcia has a “horse face.” Some will remember that last year, when much of the Raw crew was stuck overseas due to the volcano eruption, Lillian Garcia came back for one night to be a guest ring announcer. Triple H while on the microphone, with all of his tact and class, made the comment “If Lillian wants to come back here for a night to the WWE just to horse around, she can do it.” This was accompanied by Jerry Lawler making horse sounds on commentary. Mick Foley, who was in TNA at the time, posted a blog entry asking why Triple H found it necessary to “do something so shallow and mean?”
Lillian, who has now returned to WWE in order to ring announce for Smackdown, was in the dancing with Hornswoggle when Michael Cole made the comment “I wish these two would stop horsing around.” Once again, WWE showing how amazingly dedicated they are to their anti-bullying campaign show how you’re never too old to make middle school jokes about someone. Obviously they see nothing wrong with this since no apologies were released afterward and, unlike the Vickie Guerrero situation, we’re more than likely to see this kind of behavior perpetuated again and again.
Keep in stride with their reputation for crass, classless remarks intended to amuse themselves at the expense of others, and on the very same episode of Smackdown, Michael Cole found it necessary (or, in fairness to Cole, was fed the line through his headset) to make a crack about the debilitating medical condition, Bells Palsy, which legendary announce Jim Ross suffers from. Josh Matthews made the derogatory comment about Cole saying that he “speaks out of both sides of his mouth.” Cole’s response, which was not only disgustingly ignorant but pointless and delivered only to make light of someone’s serious medical illness, responded “Actually, there is nothing wrong with my mouth, unlike J.R.’s.” Way to keep it classy and bully-free, WWE.
John Cena is another member of the WWE roster who could easily be called out, and has been, for some of the tasteless remarks he’s been responsible for. Some may remember GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) targeting Cena for making homophobic remarks on WWE programming. Among them, Cena said in reference to the Rock “Just don’t go racing to Witch Mountain, Rock, cause your mountain is Brokeback.”
A week later, Cena said to the Miz in regard to Alex Riley “Do you really want to look back years from now and realize you shared your legacy with another man? Wait, don’t answer that.” He made some comments about Miz and Riley buying “one of those tandem bikes to ride to bed bath and beyond to buy some duvets” and ultimately capped it by saying “Tonight, I’m going to train you on how to be a man.”
These are not isolated incidents. Cena has a history of making homophobic remarks such as these. It’s ironic for this to come from a guy who spouts off about “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” and now wears a shirt bearing the phrase “Rise Above the Hate.” What can you expect from the “face” of a company that pledges to stop bullying while perpetrating it on their broadcasts. WWE has, for a long time, had a reputation for having a “locker room” mentality and having people, on all levels, who think it is funny to demean others. This exists everywhere in the world, plenty of organizations and companies are full of ignorance like this, but not all of them are considered the “co-founders” of an “anti-bullying alliance.”
It’s time for WWE to grow up and put away their childish thoughts and comments. They switched to PG and stick to it pretty firmly, unless it benefits them. If you’re going to talk about how John Cena is a great example and role model or how your company is dedicated to ending bullying then maybe, the best place to start, is by not tolerating the same behavior you’re rallying against to continue within the walls of your company. WWE says “be a STAR.” I say be a STAR, don’t be a hypocrite.