This isn't a small thing. Just days after WWE formed an alliance with GLAAD over GLAAD's concern with John Cena's theme of depicting the very idea that Rock "might be gay" as some sort of major zinger in his rap routines, Michael Cole uses a totally unacceptable word in any corporate or mainstream environment.
"The Voice of WWE" is now associated with calling a colleague a "f-ggot" on Twitter.
Let's be clear. Michael Cole has a right to say whatever he wants. The First Amendment does one thing: It prevents the GOVERNMENT from stopping Cole or punishing Cole for saying what he said. The First Amendment has nothing to do with whether WWE should be able to retain Cole as an employee should he embarrass the company and threaten major partnerships and sponsorships.
I'm not calling for the firing of Cole over this, but I wouldn't blame WWE If they did.
If Michael Cole had called a black colleague a "n-gger" he'd be fired on the spot, I think. Without getting sidetracked by whether one is worse than the other, I think we can all agree that both are unacceptable words to use if you expect to stay employed. Try it at your job and see what happens.
If you work at a restaurant, shout across the dining room in front of all of your lunch customers that a fellow waiter or cook is a "f-ggot." See if you have a job a minute later.
Cole is on the verge of a major match one week from tomorrow. He's emerged as one of the breakout entertaining heel characters in WWE in years. But K-Mart, Walmart, and Mattell are more important than Cole to WWE's future.
Cole disappointed me further by saying: "I was not ordered to apologize I said I am sorry because I am. Now can I get back to being a character again please?"
That last line indicates he thinks he should get away with saying "f-ggot" because he was "in character" when he said it. What else does he get to say "in character," according to his understanding of what being in character means? Can he say n-gger? Can he calls Divas "bitches" or "sluts" or "whores"? Can he make anti-semetic slurs if he's in character? How about anti-Asian comments? What does being "in character" really give you the freedom to say?
This is a test for GLAAD. They are now aligned with a company - one with an awful history of anti-gay sentiment going back to a popular tag team encouraging fans in the late 1980s to chant "f-ggot" at their opponents week after week - that they let WWE get by with a slap on the wrist regarding John Cena's inexcusable (and unfunny) gay slurs aimed at The Rock. Now they can sit back and watch WWE give Cole a slap on the wrist, or they can risk their cozy-appearing relationship with WWE by not staying quiet on this and going further than issuing a passive forgiving comment that WWE is taking appropriate action.
What about The Rock? The PG environment is what opened the door for The Rock to declare this week that he's quite open on returning to the ring for a match (or matches) with WWE. He said "The People's Era" is beginning. Does he want to be associated with an organization that allows it's top star John Cena and now it's lead announcer Michael Cole to make anti-gay slurs with nothing more than slaps on the wrist. Cena has yet to apologize and Cole's apology is about as weak as they come.
WWE could send a firm message that would be remembered for years. Firing Cole would do that. So would suspending him and costing him his WrestleMania match.
If I went to a restaurant and waiter called another server a "f-ggot" in front of me and everyone, and if he was at work the next day, I wouldn't visit that restaurant again.
(ADDENDUM: Also, WWE has to figure out whether their employees and contractors are "in character" or "out of character" when on Twitter. It's a blurry line right now, and if Cole is using Twitter as a way to express his on-air character, then are all WWE wrestlers only in character when on Twitter? If wrestlers break character on Twitter, how are we supposed to know when Cole calls a colleague a "f-ggot" whether he's Michael Cole the person or Michael Cole the on-air buffoon character?)
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