A Black professional wrestler has called out the entertainment sport’s most popular organization in what he says is racist imagery associated with his name. The WWE was going to release a t-shirt with Jordan Myles’ name on it. But the short-sleeved shirt, which is all black, also features what appears to be a big, smiling mouth surrounded by bright red lips curling upward with letters spelling out Myles’ name for the long teeth in between, which is the source of the controversy.
Myles, 31, took to Twitter early Sunday morning to vent over what he said should be “a slap in the face to EVERY African American performer, fan, and supporter.”
Some folks on Twitter couldn’t help but notice how similar the design was to “blackface.”
But the WWE said that Myles, who wrestles for the WWE NXT — the WWE’s development league, if you will — reportedly approved the t-shirt. The WWE released a statement referring to Myles by his government name:
“Albert Hardie Jr. (aka Jordan Myles) approved this t-shirt for sale. As always, we work collaboratively with all of our performers to develop logos and merchandise designs and get their input and approval before proceeding. This was the same process with Albert, and we responded swiftly once he later requested that the logo/t-shirt be redesigned. No t-shirts were sold.”
Myles took to Twitter Monday morning to refute that claim with a screenshot of an email that he says supports claims that the WWE lied to him about the design to give the impression that he approved it when he never actually did.
Regardless of who approved it, the fact that it was even approved at all lends further credence to the WWE’s apparent resistance to diversity in the company’s executive suite. In 2019, someone who is likely earning at least six figures should have had the wherewithal to notice that the graphic on the t-shirt could possibly offend someone who might think it resembled offensive Sambo imagery associated with slavery and racism.
After seeing the public relations nightmares invited by the likes of Gucci and H&M for over similar images on their clothing, it might occur to the decision-maker at WWE (Myles is not one) to steer clear of such imagery. It didn’t, and now the WWE has placed the blame on Myles.
The fact that this latest black eye, if you will, comes on the heels of another recent allegation in a long history of accusations of racism against the WWE.
Former WWE Heavyweight Champion Kofi Kingston, who is Black, lost his title earlier this month after only holding the title for just months. But it was the manner in which Kingston lost his championship match that had some folks on Twitter complaining that the WWE is racist. Kingston, who made pro wrestling history when he won the belt at WrestleMania 35 in April, lost his “Smackdown” championship match in just 10 seconds.
To be clear, the WWE is just as scripted as your favorite weekly reality TV soap opera.
But still, to many faithful WWE fans, the manner in which Kingston lost the belt strayed from the storyline for other (read: non-Black) champions and had him lose within seconds, quicker than any other champion has lost the belt — both in match duration and how long he was the champ. (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the first Black WWE champion.)
Then, there was also the case of who beat Kingston to reconcile with. Brock Lesnar is a WWE veteran and legend who won his first title in just his fifth month of competing – the same amount of time it took for Kingston to lose his belt. Lesnar is also the same person who came under fire 10 years ago for stereotyping Black people when he said: “not to get into racism or anything— but I’m built like a black man.”
It was also reported earlier this month that WWE star Randy Orton was recently caught using the N-word without consequence.
The Guardian published a detailed timeline of documented racism in pro wrestling, so none of the above incidents are isolated. But they are, however, continuing to add up.