Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bell to Bell: Darren Young/Abu Dhabi Edition

So what have we learned this week? Well, for one thing, wrestlers need to be pretty damn careful about their Twitter accounts. No doubt internet fans already know about the Seth Rollins scandal, which I’ll talk about next week. But another WWE star made social media headlines this week, regarding an issue I’d say is a little more important than dirty pictures…

In regard to WWE running live events in Abu Dhabi this week, Darren Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser tweeted the following via @DarrenYoungWWE on Tuesday…

“Why do we bring the best entertainment to a country like abu dhabi and they look down upon women and gays? I get it! #MillionsofDollars” (sic)

The post was subsequently taken down, obviously at WWE’s insistence. But Rosser was far from silenced, as he would go on to tweet the following…

- “My freedom of speech is gone. Gone but not forgotten.”

- “I feel like no one has my back and it upsets me. The struggle is real. I’m human.”

That evening, WWE put out a statement relating to Rosser’s posts. It said that while WWE supports him for being open about his sexuality, “WWE cannot change cultures and laws around the world, and thus we did not send Fred Rosser to the United Arab Emirates for our upcoming events for his own protection.”

The release concluded with: “WWE also fully supports Fred Rosser’s right to express his views on personal social media accounts rather than WWE’s corporate platforms.”

Before I dive into the nitty gritty on this, let me say for the record that I do not, under any circumstances, support the suppression or abuse of women or homosexuals. Hopefully that falls under the common sense category for most people reading this. With that in mind, let’s continue…

In the statement, WWE refers to the @DarrenYoungWWE Twitter account as a corporate platform. But is it? Presumably the only one who uses it is Rosser himself, and if you follow any WWE star on Twitter, you know they constantly use that platform to offer peeks into their lives beyond the ring. Case in point, this week Ryback posted a video of him at a fast food drive-thru (for whatever reason). Renee Young seemed to feel fairly comfortable chiming in on the Grammys this past Sunday. And for those of you wondering what Dolph Ziggler was reading on the plane ride to Abu Dhabu, he was kind enough to show you. So are these Twitter accounts really corporate platforms?

Well, sort of…

There’s a reason WWE repackages all the talent that comes in. As Bubba Ray Dudley once put it: “Vince McMahon has to make you in his own image.” That’s why Ryan Reeves became Ryback, Renee Paquette became Renee Young, Nick Nemeth became Dolph Ziggler, and Fred Rosser became Darren Young. When the name you use on social media is the intellectual property of a big corporation like WWE, they’re naturally going to want to make sure their company isn’t associated with speech they don’t like. Especially when the handle is something like @DarrenYoungWWE. WWE literally owns every word in that name.

So while Fred Rosser has every right to feel the way he feels about WWE going to Abu Dhabi, my question to him would be: “What did you think was going to happen?” On February 10, Fred Rosser was a WWE wrestler, using a Twitter handle named after his WWE character, publicly questioning the integrity of WWE. In what world does that work out in his favor?

In terms of wrestlers being allowed to say anything they want on “personal social media accounts,” one can argue that a @FredRosser account wouldn’t draw nearly as many eyes as the @DarrenYoungWWE account. Thus, the purpose of making such a statement is almost negated. But that’s sort of the deal you strike when you owe literally all of your fame to the company you’re criticizing.

But I’ll say it again, Rosser has every right to feel the way he feels. And he’s not wrong. In an era where WWE fights so hard to be politically correct and image conscious, they’re still willing to perform in a country where women and homosexuals are subjugated. What does that say to the women and homosexuals that watch WWE regularly? How about some of those families they’re trying to hard to win over?

I don’t have a good answer to those questions. In truth, “Bell to Bell” isn’t written to pass judgment on cultures or religions. I’m here to talk about professional wrestling. But what I will say is at the end of the day, WWE is a dollars and cents business, for better or worse…

I’ll conclude with this: Fred Rosser, while you might not have picked the right “platform” to vent your frustrations, at the end of the day I do have your back.” No one should have to feel cast out or isolated because of who they are inside. As you wrote, the struggle is real. And I respect you, and anyone else who is forced to endure it.

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

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