In Other “All Things Done In The Dark Will Be Brought To Light” News… Hulk Hogan has been fired!
Audio transcripts from a private conversation several years ago have Hulk Hogan, WWE’s most famous employee, uttering racist slurs. The tapes leaked from records related to a $100 million-dollar lawsuit that Hogan brought against the gossip website Gawker because of a sex-tape scandal. As soon as the Hulkster’s racist musings—complete with the N-word—became public, WWE removed his name, likeness, and merchandise from every nook and cranny of its website. And its executives terminated their contract with him.
For years, Hogan was the mega-superstar of the exhibition-comedy-opera that is professional wrestling. He was known for slowing-down many an opponent with a piledriver. Now, the equivalent of that move might have just been delivered to his persona, brand, and career.
As both wrestling fans and reality television viewers know, the Hulkster’s real name is Terry Bollea. What exactly Bollea said on tape and why isn’t worth detailing here. It’s ugly language, not only in its use of the N-word but in its context, as well.
Bollea is now trying to legdrop what he said. WWE is having none of it.
Bollea, whose lawyer claims Hulk resigned from the WWE and was not fired, seems to have quickly realized the backlash that would be coming his way once news of what he said became public. As news of his takedown started to spread, he issued a statement. He called his words inexcusable and unacceptable, asserting that he truly holds more considerate beliefs about the diversity of human beings, and expressing disappointment with himself.
WWE more simply let the circumstances do the talking, acknowledging to reporters that the company had terminated its contract with Bollea and citing its commitment to diversity.
At first glance, that might look like an easy decision. It’s been a while since Hogan’s heyday and the “Hulkamania” that grew in popularity during the 1980s. And the development of new superstars in the interim has given rise to an enterprise now valued in excess of $1 billion. But despite ups-and-downs in their business relationship over time, it isn’t lost on WWE chief executive Vince McMahon that Hogan was a huge force behind getting his business where it is today.
Professional wrestling prides its business on shock-and-awe story lines. WWE, in particular, is a business used to controversy. It thrives on it. Yet, it is also a business with 250-plus live events in the United States each year, millions of fans, and even more in video and pay-per-view sales. And it is a business that is remarkably conscious when it comes to social responsibility and community involvement.
What is interesting about the response from WWE isn’t how severe it is, but how clearly and swiftly it came down. WWE executives didn’t wait for the news to hit the public discourse. They not did wait to gauge public opinion. Instead, they followed an old principle of good management: no individual is bigger than the enterprise. As too many sports- and entertainment-related companies have shown, putting that principle into action is not easy.
Hulk Hogan had a number of well-known phrases during his wrestling heyday. One of them was “I fear no man, no beast, no evil, brother.” When he engaged in something evil, though, he quickly found out that his long-time bosses did not fear him. They did what they needed to do—they fired him.