Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose cut promos using quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King in yet another example of their struggle with topics important to society.
It’s always great when an organization pays tribute to the men and women who did life-changing work for society. On Monday, the country celebrated the life and legacy of one Dr. Martin Luther King Jr – a prominent figure in the Civil Rights movement. While the work continues in the US today, the WWE took a moment to honor his legacy with a tribute to start the show.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, two of the most important athletes on the roster, also had some interesting things to say about Dr. King in relation to their recent storylines. From the outside looking in, this was a distasteful and tone-deaf decision, which shows that WWE Creative and leadership continues to miss wildly with some topic matters.
During a promo to the crowd, Seth made the following quote from Dr. King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands during times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands during times of challenge and controversy.”
He would then equate that situation to losing the tag team and Intercontinental title and the break up of the Shield – to cheers from the crowd.
Rollins is talking about a matter that is part made up and part factual. Yes, it must be difficult for him as a friend as he supports Roman Reigns with his battle against Leukemia; that is a serious situation that millions have struggled with.
But wrestling for a championship is a far cry from the “challenge and controversy” that Dr. King was speaking about. He was talking about the disenfranchisement of an entire people – the marginalization that created an atmosphere where segregation and Jim Crow was the law of the land. Dr. King was talking about problems that minorities continue to go through today.
Dean, on the other hand, used another popular quote from Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This is a quote that is used very frequently when speaking about Dr. King, and is in again, reference to the continued assault on Civil Rights that many were experiencing across the country. Ambrose would then go into a diatribe, relating that quote to losing the IC belt and what’s coming for Rollins and Bobby Lashley in the Royal Rumble.
Now, let’s break down why the WWE using these quotes are an issue. There’s been many pieces written about how the WWE struggles with minority talent, as they’ve shown an inability to creatively get them over with the crowd without having to tap into exaggerated forms of negative stereotypes in society. We’ve also seen questionable angles such as the Triple H – Booker T feud years ago, the Mandy Rose and Naomi “home-wrecker” storyline, and a lack of representation of women of color.
It’s 2019 and WWE has only had a handful of African American world champions throughout its history – a matter they can easily correct with stars like The New Day, Bobby Lashley, and many more, yet they fail to address it.
So it feels very disingenuous that the WWE can pay tribute to a man that worked tirelessly for the betterment of minorities in this country but continue to make decisions that raise questions about how they treat their very own employees.
There’s also another level of disingenuousness when using these quotes. Twice in 2018 the WWE traveled to Saudi Arabia for two major events. Both times, the company faced controversy to do so because of the rampant human rights violations that have occurred in that country. Right before the second trip for WWE Crown Jewel, the crown leadership of Saudi Arabia was embroiled in a major controversy regarding the murder of Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi. Major American companies pulled out of partnerships with the country, wrestlers like John Cena and Daniel Bryan refused to go on the trip; but WWE leadership remained committed to the plan because of the financial ramifications for the WWE. Various reports have shown that Saudi Arabian leadership played a key part in Khashoggi’s murder, and while there’s no word on when the WWE will go back, do not be surprised when they do.
So, if Ambrose can quote about “injustice,” why was the WWE so silent about the injustice that directly impacted their product? If Rollins can talk about the stance that a man takes, why was he and many others on the roster or leaders within the company silent on the lack of inclusion of women’s wrestlers when they signed this major deal? It’s nice to use Dr. King’s comments when they’ve been white-washed throughout history, but his words challenged many of the racial and patriarchal foundations that the WWE continues to stand upon. Issues that the company continues to ignore.
The WWE attempted to do something timely by celebrating MLK and having wrestlers (who are not black) quote him on his national holiday in a way that didn’t honor his words, but, rather, cheapened them for the “benefit” of a storyline. In the end, it was a tone-deaf mistake that further highlights the issues within its own organizations from the top down to the bottom.