WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon did an interview with AdAge today and discussed diversity & inclusion in WWE. Stephanie was asked how WWE is addressing diversity & inclusion following the George Floyd death, and whether the company has taken any action since their June statement that condemned racism.
McMahon noted how WWE has amplified the messages of talent who are raising awareness themselves, including The New Day wearing arm bands to remember victims of injustice, WWE NXT Champion & NXT North American Champion Keith Lee wearing “BLM” attire, and the company supporting the recent “Love Walk” hosted by Titus O’Neil and WWE Hall of Famer Batista. It was also noted that WWE Corporate has several programs to help educate employees about these topics. She also revealed that WWE works with a diversity & inclusion recruiting agency.
“But we’re really taking a hard look and a different look, from every level, and support it throughout our company. From the top down. Including our board,” she said (H/T to Pro Wrestling Sheet). “We are absolutely taking this very seriously, as we should. As everybody should. Because it’s going to take every single person to enact change.”
Stephanie also noted that around 40% of current champions in WWE are African American. She said she believes representation is critical, including the representation of women. She was asked how WWE works to make sure different voices are represented.
“I think that that representation is absolutely critical and you need to have it at every level,” she added. “You need to make sure diversity is real. And it’s not just representation, but that those voices are really heard, and that those voices matter. Because at the end of the day, all of these different experiences that people have, that’s what’s gonna bring us together to create the best possible society and the best possible company.”
AdAge senior editor Jeanine Poggi brought up how several brands have recently made changes or considered changes to their own branding and names, such as the NFL’s Washington Redskins or Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. Stephanie was asked if WWE has taken a look at some of their characters to see if they are stereotypical or not. She said the company is looking at everything, and talked about how the talents help officials create their characters.
“We’re looking at everything,” she said. “From a storyline perspective. From a character perspective. From an employee perspective. We really are because, again, like I just said, representation matters. Also that our talent’s voices are heard. So when we’re crafting characters in WWE, it’s not just ‘hey, you’re going to be this particular character and that’s it and you have no say in the matter. Here’s your script and that’s it.’
“Our Superstars have the opportunity to give their feedback. They help us create the character. They help with what they’re saying. And we have had instances where we’ve had talent say, ‘Listen, this doesn’t feel good to me.’ African American talent say, ‘this doesn’t feel good to me.’ This was actually pre-George Floyd, but that those conversations happen. And I think they’re important.”
She continued, “And you can’t be afraid to have those conversations. You have to be willing to listen. You have to be willing to admit that you just might not know something. You might not understand each other. And the only way we’re ever gonna learn from each other is if we truly listen and value each other’s feedback.”
In another tidbit from the interview, Sean Ross Sapp noted on Twitter how Stephanie revealed that the company has added a virtual ceiling at the WWE Performance Center for TV tapings. This was done because the overhead ceiling fans have not looked good on TV.
Below is full video from Stephanie’s AdAge interview:
(H/T to Pro Wrestling Sheet)