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An in-depth look at the "Stand Up For WWE/Setting The Record Straight" campaign

As Geno mentioned earlierWWE is trying to rally fans by rebutting various claims made about them in the media recently.  Let's take a look at them one by one:

"...the company...has been criticized for violent and sexually suggestive programming."
Peter Wallsten - The Wall Street Journal - July 2, 2010


All of WWE's programming has been TV-PG since June 2008.
Friday Night SmackDown, which made its network debut in 1999 has always been rated TV-PG.
87 percent of WWE fans say WWE content is appropriate for families.
Of the 14 million weekly viewers in the United States that watch WWE programming, six million are women.

Well, Wallsten's still telling the truth.  As far as sex goes, DX still did the "suck it" shtick during the PG era and I'm probably forgetting some other things.  As far as violence, well, it's pro wrestling.  They've dropped blading and they stop matches to close hardway cuts.  They've also stopped using certain kinds of chokes and banned chairshots to the head, but those were banned for Benoit and safety reasons, respectively, not the PG edict.  They've toned things down, but it's still pro wrestling and pro wrestling is inherently violent.  The violence contained in the Power Rangers shows have been criticized in the past so it's not really damning to say that.

"Putting profits before people."
Richard Blumenthal Ads - 2010


World Wrestling Entertainment first opened its office in 1983 with 13 employees. Today it employees approximately 600 people and pays out $60 million in salaries for those based in Connecticut alone.
WWE provides a comprehensive benefits package to all full-time employees including medical, dental, vision, 401(k) and employee stock purchase plans.
110 employees have been with WWE for more than 10 years.
WWE has 140 Superstars and Divas currently under contract as independent contractors.
The average active roster WWE Talent earns more than $550,000 annually, with WWE covering 100 percent of all costs associated with any in-ring related injuries and rehabilitation.
In 2011, WWE plans to hire between 100-140 employees in anticipation of the launch of the WWE cable network.
WWE has a longstanding commitment to give back to communities through literacy programs, support of the military and their families, and a more than 25 year relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

They also do annual layoffs to cover the dividend that makes their stock attractive but isn't really sustainable.

"...the state Democratic Party has criticized...other business practices, particularly its classifying performers as independent contractors who do not receive health benefits from WWE."
- Ed Stannard - New Haven Register - Sept. 5, 2010


WWE covers 100 percent of all costs associated with any in-ring related injuries and rehabilitation.
The Talent Wellness Program, fully funded by WWE, calls for regular cardiovascular testing and monitoring, ImPACTTM testing for brain function, annual physicals, medical referrals and blood screening of WWE Talent, as well as substance abuse and random drug testing.
WWE offers current and former talent who may have substance abuse problems complete drug rehabilitation at no cost to them. WWE is the only entertainment company that provides this type of assistance and ongoing support to its former performers.
WWE invests nearly $3.5 million annually in the talents' health and wellness programs.

Stannard clearly meant health insurance when he said "health benefits."  That was easy.  Also, they fired Andrew Martin while he was recovering from neck surgery related to on the job injuries, and Vince McMahon infamously told Congress that they're only paying for rehab for wrestlers not under contract for public relations reasons:

Q What led you to make, you the company, to make the magnanimous gesture of offering counseling services to current or former employees or contractors?

A Two words. Public relations. That's it. I do not feel any sense of responsibility for anyone of whatever their age is who has passed along and has bad habits and overdoses for drugs. Sorry, I don't feel any responsibility for that. Nonetheless, that's why we're doing it. It is a magnanimous gesture.

By the way, if you haven't read the whole Congressional interview with Vince (PDF), you really should.

"The company also has been accused of looking the other way as wrestlers, feeling pressured to maintain the pumped-up bodies showcased in the W.W.E., turned to steroids."
- Ray Hernandez & Joshua Brustein - The New York Times - July 15, 2010


WWE's Talent Wellness Policy strictly prohibits the use of steroids, the abuse of prescription medications, performance enhancing drugs and the use, possession and/or distribution of illegal drugs.
WWE's entire substance abuse and drug testing policy is independently administered by third party leading medical experts.
The Talent Wellness Program is designed to result in all WWE Talent being tested at a minimum four times a year, but may result in more frequent testing due to the random selection process.

They didn't even bother to respond directly there.  There was no random drug testing for about a decade.  According to Linda McMahon, this was because "It was not cost effective, and again, there was a competitor not doing it, it was just not a level playing field as we were very competitive in the marketplace, it just wasn't cost effective for us to continue to do it."  The were legitimately having financial difficulties and the company had largely been cleaned up (to the point that several months before dropping testing, they openly accused WCW's Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan of abusing steroids in the infamous "Billionaire Ted" skits), but I highly doubt that it was the only reason, especially in light of Linda McMahon's statement to Congress.

Speaking of the Congressional interviews, when Dr. Tracy Ray was interviewed (PDF), they went over the therapeutic use exemptions (with the names redacted) that he had granted up to that point when wrestlers had tested positive for certain substances.  One wrestler had been diagnosed by his/her (both gender pronouns were used in the transcript) doctor as having a specific hormonal disorder (panhypopituitarism or panhypopit) as a complication of head injuries.  The personal doctor prescribed testosterone and human growth hormone replacement therapy for the wrestler, which was approved by Dr. Ray.  Steve Cha, the doctor conducting this portion of the interview pointed out that normally, when someone was diagnosed with panhypopit, cortisol would also be prescribed, as it would be the most important hormone to be without.  He then asked if Ray called the prescribing doctor to point this out.  He didn't.  Hmm...

"Lack of athletic-board scrutiny also ensured that the WWE's wrestlers would not be subject to drug tests."
- Andy Barr - Politico - Aug. 10, 2010


WWE is still regulated in 21 states and the District of Columbia, where rules and regulations can differ. The company's Talent Wellness Program is far stricter than any medical or drug testing required by the states.
Much like Ringling Bros. Circus and Harlem Globetrotters, WWE is sheer entertainment and therefore should not be under the purview of the antiquated rules and regulations of State Athletic Commissions.
WWE pays gross admissions taxes on ticket sales similar to concerts or other live entertainment events in states that we are not regulated.

On the financial level at the very least, WWE is probably right here.  That said, they didn't run Oregon for years because the athletic commission didn't have the power to drug test the wrestlers.

"The allegations against WWE seem to be criminal in nature...because allegations about independent contractors are investigated by the Department of Labor and the Department of Revenue Services..."
Richard Blumenthal - Oct. 4, 2010


WWE has always complied with the law, and constantly reviews its internal practices and procedures to comply with ever-changing employee laws.
For the entirety of WWE's existence, WWE talent have been classified as independent contractors and not employees.
There is not now, nor has there ever been, any criminal investigation into WWE's treatment of its Superstars as independent contractors.
WWE's treatment and reporting of its talent as independent contractors has never been challenged or questioned by any federal or state regulatory body during the entirety of WWE's existence.
Up until this election, WWE has not been investigated in the past for independent contractor classification

Aside from the "criminal" part, I think we've all gone over this enough lately.  As far as the implication that the investigation is Blumenthal's doing, it's not in his jurisdiction as State Attorney General.

Meanwhile, there is a video of Vince McMahon on pushing the "Stand Up For WWE" initiative that I believe is also airing on Raw tonight.

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