Hulk Hogan is one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s most iconic wrestlers, which explains why fans were shocked this week to see his biography and all of his official merchandise scrubbed from its website.
WWE apparently made the decision to part ways with Hulk Hogan based on an audiotape of him going on a disturbing racist tirade. Several media outlets have speculated the rant was a part of a three-year-old interview for a radio show in which Hogan lamented that he isn’t allowed to use the N-word, but according to MediaTakeOut, the actual tape has yet to be released, and it is much, much worse.
They report that Hogan is heard using the N-word more than 50 times and that after listening to the tape, “There can be no doubt that Hulk Hogan is a racist at the level of the Ku Klux Klan.” The audio allegedly surfaced during legal discovery for Hogan’s trial against Gawker Media. The wrestler is suing Gawker for $100 million for publishing excerpts of his controversial sex tape with his ex-best-friend’s wife.
The WWE is wasting no time taking these allegations seriously. It released a statement this morning confirming that it has terminated its contract with Hogan, adding, “WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.”
The move is sure to ruffle feathers among hard-core fans, but WWE is hardly the first big brand to take a tough stance on racism. Two years ago, the Food Network fired beloved chef Paula Deen after disturbing racist statements she made regarding her restaurant staff. In 2014, former Clippers owner Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban from the NBA and was forced to sell his team after a similar racist tirade. Many brands and corporations are taking a zero-tolerance stance on racism that is absolutely necessary.
In the age of the internet and instant access to every facet of a celebrity’s life, it has become increasingly difficult to separate personal beliefs from a public persona. Public figures like Hulk Hogan have a huge responsibility to the brands they represent, and racism is absolutely a fireable offense. There’s no excuse for holding outdated, prejudiced beliefs, and the only way it will stop is if we continue to call people out, to take away their endorsements, to show people that hatred is unacceptable no matter how wealthy or important they are.
People have the right to believe and say whatever they want, but that doesn’t protect them from having to face the consequences. In a world where innocent black people are being killed by police at an alarming rate and men like Dylann Roof feel compelled to walk into places of worship and commit heinous hate crimes, there is no place for ignorance and casual racism. There is no reason to continue to give a platform to people who hold racist beliefs. There is no reason to show leniency.
Racism is not a difference of opinion, but rather a cancer in our society that we must eradicate. That starts with challenging the loudest, most powerful voices. Hulk Hogan is one of WWE’s most iconic figures, and the corporation should be applauded for taking bold steps to show both its fans and the general public that his hateful beliefs don’t have a place in their world.