(Content warning: This article contains allegations of sexual assault, sexual coercion, and sexual harassment)
In the “Impact” section of your websiteWWE touts its “Be A Star” anti-bullying program as being developed in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and states that the bullying prevention program, which was Championed by former WWE executive Stephanie McMahon, “it is available to 4,300 clubs and provides more than 4 million children with access to educational tools and materials that help create a safe and inclusive after-school environment.”
Preventing bullying is, without a doubt, an important cause, especially as the worlds of high-speed Internet access and unmoderated social media have combined to take the bullying and personal torment of children to a completely new level. new. But while WWE may have wanted the best for its under-18 audience, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the same level of concern was not extended to WWE employees, particularly the women who worked for the former co-founder and former president. and CEO of WWE. Vince McMahon.
Last week, McMahon resigned from his position in WWE, the second time doing it in the last two years, due to allegations of sexual harassment and assault. McMahon has denied it no crime and has not been charged with any crime, but recent reports have claimed that federal law enforcement agencies are investigating allegations related to sex trafficking at the home of former WWE paralegal Janel Grant. federal lawsuit against McMahon.
Grant’s assault allegations at the hands of McMahon and former WWE executive John Laurinaitis (Nikki and Brie Garcia’s stepfather, aka “The Bella Twins” – laurinaitis has denied any wrongdoing and claims that he is also a “victim” of McMahon) are creepy and disturbing, to say the least, but they have somewhat obscured the institutional memory that this is not the first time we have heard of “Vince McMahon” and “inappropriate sexual conduct” in close proximity. McMahon was also forced to leave the company in 2022, after a Wall Street Journal report that he had paid $12 million in confidentiality agreements to four women over 16 years, one of whom was Grant. The WSJ claims that McMahon also paid $7.5 million to a former wrestler who says McMahon forced her to give him oral sex and then degraded her when she rejected his subsequent advances. Another woman, a WWE contractor, came forward with unsolicited nude photos that she claimed McMahon sent her while he was sexually harassing her at her job. When McMahon initially resigned in the wake of the WSJ report, his daughter, Stephanie, led the crowd in a “Thank you, Vince” chant.
For her part, Stephanie McMahon has always been a strange combination of “girl power.” at the same time she seemingly covers up the men’s terrible behavior. She deserves credit for the 2020 women’s revolution in WWE, which launched the careers of wrestlers like Becky Lynch, Mercedes Mone (then Sasha Banks) and Charlotte Flair. At the same time, she gleefully applauded the election of former Barstool CEO Erika Ayers Badan (then Erika Nardini) to the company’s board of directors, despite her history of apparently he doesn’t care about Barstool’s long-standing harassment of womenthat Ayers Badan has been accused of using it to your advantage. Show tolerance and respect, indeed. Furthermore, Stephanie once had to cancel Vince’s speech for a story where he was either the father or the unborn son, so I guess it’s all relative. Ayers Badan has since left WWE and Barstool Sports.
However, one thing that seems to become clearer every day is that Vince McMahon’s behavior was not news to anyone. Former wrestler Dutch Mantell spoke on his podcast about rumors of how harsh Vince was on “the Divas,” the name previously used for WWE’s female wrestlers, saying: “I heard how Vince was with the Divas, sometimes the He was in a manic state. Sometimes they would leave the room with him, shaking, then they would sit in a corner and not talk to anyone. There was something between them that bothered them.” Mantell also said that he believes that “now they will come out into the open.” many more stories.” Before Grant’s bombshell lawsuit in 2024, former WWE writer Vince Russo, who is never late to comment when WWE is involved, said he would not consider working for McMahon again because of “morality.” and ethics”.
Meanwhile, WWE hasn’t exactly impressed with its response to the allegations against McMahon. If the powers that be at TKO (WWE’s parent company, formed when they merged with the UFC in 2023) thought Cody Rhodes would win the Royal Rumble twice in a row and bring back The Rock for Wrestlemania was enough to distract from the accusations against Vince McMahon, they need to go back to the drawing board. Last week, my colleague Sam Fels, properly illuminated WWE for dropping the ball in responding to Grant’s lawsuit. Particularly galling was seeing WWE creative director Paul “Triple H” Levesque admit that he hadn’t even read the lawsuit. Levesque’s inability to adequately respond to the allegations against Vince McMahon should have been obvious, given his past penchant for dating Floyd Mayweather and his inability to adequately address the past grooming accusations against former WWE wrestler Velveteen Dream. I guess nothing says “we take sexual assault seriously” like running Cerebral Assasin to not address it. At least he wasn’t on a bike with Lemmy screaming somewhere above him.
I have criticized WWE’s “Attitude Era,” an era that many male fans long to return to, primarily due to its exploitation and treatment of women, both in the ring and backstage and out of the public eye. And despite her clear call to end harassment through “Be A Star,” it appears that the demand to treat others with tolerance and respect does not extend to adults in WWE, particularly women. While ending bullying is certainly a brave goal, showing young girls (and make no mistake, there are plenty of them watching WWE) that boundaries matter, especially when it comes to talking about sexual assault and harassment, is equally important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than 4 in 5 female rape survivors reported that they were raped for the first time before age 25 and almost half were raped for the first time when they were a minor (i.e., before age 18). Nearly 8 in 10 male rape survivors reported being forced to penetrate someone before the age of 25, and about 4 in 10 were forced to penetrate for the first time when they were minors.”
So how about we include dealing with unwanted sexual advances and coercion as part of being a star? And what if WWE also extended the message about respect and tolerance backstage, including to its executive suite? And in the meantime, maybe get someone qualified to talk about sexual misconduct and sex trafficking to talk to children and young adults about the warning signs? And maybe send someone from the C-Suite who actually read Grant’s lawsuit and took it seriously to address fans about what WWE is doing to make sure Vince McMahon doesn’t happen to their employees again.
I can’t think of a better way to spend Wrestlemania.