“I don’t know if Brooke was f*cking the black guy’s son…I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean, I am a racist, to a point, f*cking n*ggers. But then when it comes to nice people and sh*t, and whatever….I mean, I’d rather if she was going to f*ck some n*gger, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n*gger worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player!

I guess we’re all a little racist. Fucking n*gger.”

It’s been three years since the tape of Hulk Hogan spewing those hateful words surfaced. Overnight, he was banished from the WWE that he called home for the better part of 35 years. Though the banishment was as swift as it was decisive, it always felt temporary. What we always assumed was going to happen, has finally come to pass. Hulk Hogan has been reinstated into the WWE's Hall Of Fame, one step away from getting a renewed contract with the company. On the surface, Hulk Hogan is maybe the most popular wrestler of all time and it’s hard to imagine him not affiliated with the company that made him famous, and vice versa.  But there’s also a more troubling reason for Hulk Hogan's return: pro wrestling, most notably Vince McMahon and his WWE, hasn’t shown any indication that it cares enough about black people to truly hold someone accountable for something as egregious as racial slurs and hate speech. 

WWE on Twitter

BREAKING: After a three-year suspension, @HulkHogan has been reinstated into the @WWE Hall of Fame. https://t.co/SxwUms9Yet

To be a black wrestling fan is to be someone at odds with one’s own moral integrity. Wrestling as a genre of entertainment has relished any chance to base its entertainment on racial stereotypes. As a lifelong wrestling fan, I’ve seen it all. From pimps to Cryme Time (the name says it all), to “mammie” stereotypes and wrestlers being told they were too criminal to win the world title, I’ve seen just about every negative portrayal of black people possible. But I've still watched. It’s hard to justify quite why, but maybe it’s because there’s a general acceptance of wrestling as such low-brow entertainment that expecting it to have any responsible treatment of race (or gender or sexual orientation or…). But despite it all - despite the decades of subjecting myself to embarrassing racial caricatures in wrestling - allowing Hulk Hogan to come back is a bridge too far. (Aside: Let's not forget that a few years ago, WWE exec and wrestler, Triple H said that he couldn't look his daughters in the eye and explain to them how Chyna, a WWE icon, could get into the Hall Of Fame after having been featured in a sex tape. Apparently, Triple H has no problem looking his daughters in the eye to explain to them how he allowed a racist into the Hall Of Fame.)

I'm not the only person who feels that way. Because, let’s not forget, there’s always the growing, ever-volatile elephant in the room: the McMahons' burgeoning relationship with Donald Trump. Vince and Donald have had a 30-year relationship, dating back to WrestleMania IV being held in Trump Tower. The would-be president was also heavily featured on WWE programming, participating in a faux-feud with Vince McMahon in 2007. The company then inducted Trump into its Hall of Fame years later. It’s clear that the McMahons see Trump’s following as an audience they can tap into as there’s a clear crossover between xenophobic messaging and histrionic patriotism. McMahon’s announced the relaunch of his XFL football league where players will be required to stand for the anthem is another indication the WWE overlords are looking to align themselves with Trumpian politics. And now that Fox has paid a whopping billion dollars for part of WWE’s TV product, the McMahons will be under the same roof (at least in part) as the Hannitys, Jason Whitlocks and Tucker Carlsons. The 2019 debut on Fox seems like the perfect storm to welcome back someone with an affinity for dropping N-bombs. 

Hulk Hogan being back in the company feels like the twisting of a knife Vince McMahon has had in black spines for decades, a final and definite concession that we do not matter to him. Right now, I feel horribly for the black wrestlers, writers, producers and other employees who spent their lives dreaming of working for WWE only to have to look an admitted racist in the eye and pretend to be okay with him coming back without any tangible consequences or sorrow for his actions. This is all, honestly, heartbreaking. WWE made a firm decision to spit in the face of every black person who has ever been associated with them. As a result, I am confident that there are plenty of us willing to put our money elsewhere. A Hogan return is a line in the sand moment for WWE. The correct move was obvious, and they chose to go the opposite way. No black world champion they crown in the coming months to make up for this will make a difference. The damage has been done, and there’s no kicking out once that decision is made.