It’s impossible to avoid the conversation about racism and racial justice in American right now, and that’s a very good, long overdue thing.
The topic, and specifically the Black Lives Matter movement, was prominent during the third match on the card at NXT TakeOver: In Your House last night (June 7). This mostly came via North American champion Keith Lee’s ring gear, which the designer shared some detailed pictures of on her Twitter:
https://t.co/uOweGccRDX pic.twitter.com/L1jZkkDwbc— Jolene Jilnicki (@byJolene) June 8, 2020
When she ran in toward the end of his match with Johnny Gargano, Lee’s partner Mia Yim offered a deeper cut.
The names on Yim’s shirt are those of the Central Park Five (Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam) - Black and Latino teens arrested and convicted of a Manhattan assault in the 1980s who were later exonerated. Their ordeal contains examples of most of the things people are protesting about today, including President Donald Trump’s use of race as a divisive, attention-grabbing tool.
Not televised but receiving a lot of coverage on the wrestling web this morning are remarks from NXT founding father Triple H about Black Lives Matter. Some tweets from Performance Center recruit AJ Francis brought Hunter’s speech to the roster to light.
And HE DONT HAVE TO DO THAT and he still made sure we knew that we could... that’s an ally. pic.twitter.com/AkQWh9vScv— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) June 7, 2020
Wrestling Inc followed up with a more detailed report. The site says Haitch (aka WWE Vice-President Paul Levesque) spoke to the talent before the show, and that seems to be what Francis is referring to. The group was said to be “receptive” to the message, but it didn’t lead to any “open conversation”.
After the show, The Game spoke again, and told the wrestlers how proud he was of them “for standing up for what they believe in at this important time in the world.” Triple H apparently got emotional at this point, saying “he wants everyone to matter regardless of their race, religion or orientation,” and “he wants the talent to set an example for the world”.
This was described as a powerful, unifying moment. It also seems like it might have been on new Women’s champion Io Shirai’s mind when she tweeted this:
I have nothing but the utmost respect & gratitude for WWE, who always believed I could become a champion, regardless of race or nationality.— 紫雷イオ、Io Shirai (@shirai_io) June 8, 2020
Tonight, my chance finally arrived.
I don’t have a tag partner, but I definitely have a wonderful family & home.
This all sounds fantastic, and I don’t want to in any way discourage WWE and pro wrestling from moving in the right direction on issues of equality.
It is fair to point out however that the company, and Triple H in particular, have been on the wrong side of those issues in the past. As much as they can be praised for saying the right things now, they - like so many of us - need to back up their words with actions from this point forward.
We’ve got to start somewhere, though. Now that we have, we’ve got to keep going.