WWE Network fans have seen and heard racist tropes in the ring for years.
In a 1990 showdown between Roddy Piper and Bad News Brown, a black wrestler, Mr. Piper, who is white, showed up to the match with half of his face painted black.
In 2005, WWE General Manager Vince McMahon used a racial slur on several occasions in a prepared skit.
Until recently, these segments were available to watch on the WWE Network, allowing subscribers to revisit old WrestleMania episodes and seasons dating back to the 1980s. But this month, after WWE episodes have started switching to Peacock, NBCUniversal’s newest streaming service, longtime wrestling viewers noticed they couldn’t find either of the two segments.
“The whole game is over,” said Christopher Jeter, 30, who has watched pro wrestling since he was 10 and now writes about it for Daily DDT, a news and opinion site on WWE. “I wouldn’t say it’s a big loss.”
NBCUniversal said Peacock “reviews WWE content to make sure it aligns with Peacock’s standards and practices,” as it does with other shows and movies on the platform.
“Peacock and WWE are reviewing all past content to ensure it meets our 2021 standards,” WWE said.
NBCUniversal said in January that Peacock had acquired exclusive broadcast rights to WWE Network content through a multi-year agreement.
In March, the company announced that Peacock would feature WWE fan-favorite content at launch, including all WrestleManias that went before WrestleMania 37.“
The company said Peacock will continue to add WWE Network content to its library, making the entire archive available to fans.
The removal of the segments comes as other streaming services and entertainment companies have sought to give audiences context for older movies and TV shows that feature offensive content.
Disney’s streaming service includes a 12-second warning that cannot be ignored before movies like “Dumbo” and “Peter Pan” that tells viewers they will see “negative portrayals” and “abuse. inflicted on people or cultures “.
“These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the warning warns. “Rather than removing this content, we want to recognize its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to together create a more inclusive future.”
This month, Turner Classic Movies showed 18 classic movies, including “The Jazz Singer” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which were preceded by commentary from film experts who prepared viewers for scenes they could find. shocking or disturbing.
HBO Max initially removed “Gone with the Wind” from its streaming service, then added it again with a four-minute intro by TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who explains the enduring cultural significance of the film at the time. even that he “denies the horrors of slavery.” as well as its legacies of racial inequalities. “
Last June, an NBC spokesperson said that four episodes of “30 Rock” that featured a blackface were pulled from circulation at the behest of Tina Fey, the show’s creator, and Robert Carlock, a executive producer and showrunner.
Mr Jeter, the WWE fan who writes about wrestling, said racist and sexist portrayals of women, blacks and other people of color have long been a part of professional wrestling.
“It has become such a part of the oversight of the product that it has become expected,” he said. “But that’s not what I watch wrestling for.”
Most fans, he said, watch wrestling because they appreciate the combination of athleticism and dramatic storytelling. Racist tropes were often a distraction from this, Mr Jeter said.
“I’m sure there are fans out there who say, ‘Why are you censoring? “, He said. “But it really doesn’t matter that they are getting rid of these stories and segments that haven’t aged really well and weren’t really good at the time.”