World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) will be working with GLAAD to create and promote an anti-bullying initiative aimed at their core audience, and has invited us to conduct trainings for their staff of writers and editors.
Our outreach to WWE was prompted by outrage from many LGBT viewers, about a series of homophobic taunts by wrestler John Cena on the USA program WWE Raw in late February. We reached out to WWE Incorporated, which responded swiftly and positively.
GLAAD was first made aware of the incidents by several of its members following the February 21 broadcast of WWE Raw, which featured wrestler John Cena responding to taunts made by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with a rap song making fun of Johnson’s film roles. The song included lyrics like “You left us high and dry to play a fairy with a tooth?” and “He wore lipstick in Get Shorty, and rocked a skirt for The Game Plan.” But the real kicker came near the end when he said:
Just don’t go racing to Witch Mountain, Rock, cause your mountain is Brokeback.
The “Brokeback” joke occurs 0:46 seconds into the clip seen below:
The next incident occurred on the show a week later (Feb. 28), when Cena was challenging another wrestler known as “The Miz” while in the ring with him, and had the crowd roaring when he joked about the Miz and his wrestling partner secretly being a couple. It began with Cena saying “Do you really want to look back years from now and realize you shared your legacy with another man?! ….Wait don’t answer that.” Cena continued:
“Now The Miz and Alex Riley are co-champions and to celebrate it they’re going to move in together. They’re going to buy one of those tandem bikes and ride to bed bath and beyond to buy some duvets. And every evening they’re going to relax with a glass of warm piot noir and watch The Notebook, or reruns of last season’s Bachelor. ……….You want to be a mentor and train him? Well, tonight I’m going to train you on how to be a man.”
The incidents were particularly troubling because WWE recently began promoting itself as PG-rated entertainment marketed primarily towards adolescent males. Young boys are of course the demographic most likely to experience homophobic bullying or to be bullying themselves. And there was wrestling superstar John Cena performing what amounted to scripted homophobic bullying of other wrestlers on a nationally broadcast show for kids.
GLAAD contacted WWE executives and explained the problem after receiving our first reports. They then spoke to John Cena and the show’s writers. We have been assured that not only will such incidents not happen again, WWE intends to reach out to their adolescent audience, with messages aimed making it clear that bullying someone with homophobic taunts or for their perceived sexual orientation is wrong. WWE released the following apology statement to that effect:
WWE takes this issue very seriously, and has already spoken with our talent about these incidents. We are taking steps and working with GLAAD to ensure that our fans know that WWE is against bullying or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We strongly value our fans in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and apologize to them for these incidents.
We are very much looking forward to developing our relationship with WWE, and we thank them both for hearing our message loud and clear, and for planning to send an anti-bullying message of their own.