WWE’s SummerSlam pay-per-view may only be a day away, but that was the last thing on the mind of a group of fans who reportedly held a protest earlier this week, demanding President Donald Trump’s removal from the WWE Hall of Fame.
On Friday afternoon, a group of fans picketed outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where WWE will be holding its SummerSlam pay-per-view on Sunday. Gothamist was able to speak to the protest leader, Brooklyn resident and wrestling fan John Stevens, who explained that he wants Donald Trump out of the WWE Hall of Fame because of how he condemned white supremacists and counter-protesters alike in his press conference tackling the unrest at Charlottesville.
“We were talking about how Trump gave that crazy press conference, and then thought about how he’s in the WWE Hall of Fame even though Hulk Hogan got kicked out over racism. What Trump has done is remarkably worse than what Hogan did, since he’s dividing the country by siding with neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”
Stevens, 30, was referring to WWE’s decision in 2015 to fire the legendary Hogan, who was allegedly caught on tape making racist comments about his daughter Brooke’s African-American boyfriend at the time. As noted by the New York Post, WWE reacted to the leaked audio not only by releasing him from his job as company ambassador and Tough Enough cast member, but also by scrubbing all references to his name from multiple online platforms. Moreover, Hogan was removed from WWE’s Hall of Fame page, and even its website’s alumni section, as a result of the leaks.
As John Stevens sees it, Donald Trump deserves to be removed from the WWE Hall of Fame, as his remarks at this week’s press conference were worse than what Hogan supposedly said.
“Basically WWE is endorsing those comments by having [Trump] in their Hall of Fame. I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that they’d leave him in there, take Hogan out and claim they say they care about racism.”
In the lead-up to Friday’s protest, Stevens and his friends showed up on Thursday at an autograph signing session featuring WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, handing out flyers and inviting people to take part in the demonstration. Gothamist noted that this was a good opportunity for Stevens, as Mahal’s heel character on SmackDown Live has him playing the role of an “evil foreigner,” a gimmick many feel is antiquated and arguably offensive.
WWE’s Hall of Fame page for Donald Trump describes him as an “innovator of real estate, politics, and reality television,” with his surname being “synonymous with wealth and power.” Trump, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame’s Celebrity Wing in 2013, had most famously taken part in the “Battle of the Billionaires” storyline with WWE owner Vince McMahon, as Trump’s representative, Bobby Lashley, defeated McMahon’s representative Umaga at WrestleMania 23 in 2007. Per match stipulations, Trump and Lashley, with the help of guest referee “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, got to shave McMahon’s head bald in front of a live audience of thousands.
Despite their storyline rivalry, Trump and McMahon have been longtime friends in the real world, with Vince’s wife, Linda McMahon, serving in the Trump Cabinet as Small Business Administration head. But Stevens and his fellow protesters believe it’s about time that Donald Trump gets removed from the WWE Hall of Fame, as leaving him in would make WWE appear hypocritical.
“They have two options; leave someone who defends neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the Hall of Fame and accept that their fans will look at them as hypocrites the next time they take a stand about racism, homophobia or other forms of prejudice, or have a spine and stand up to racism,” said fellow protester and Brooklyn resident Stephen Miller.
“If they choose to leave him in the HOF I will question whether or not I’ll continue to watch their product.”
Friday’s protest at the Barclays Center isn’t the first time people have asked WWE to kick Trump out of its Hall of Fame since he launched his campaign for the U.S. presidency. Two years ago, Bleacher Report wrote that Trump’s statements against foreign immigrants, including Muslims and Mexicans, convinced thousands of fans to sign a Change.org petition asking that WWE remove Donald Trump from its Hall of Fame. That petition drew slightly less than 11,000 signatures out of a target of 15,000, as WWE reportedly responded that it is “not in the business of politics and has no plans to respond to any of the political rhetoric.”
[Featured Image by Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images]