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Vince McMahon needs to go, but that won’t be easy — and should just be the start

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Following the sex trafficking and abuse allegations in the lawsuit filed against TKO Executive Chairman Vince McMahon yesterday (Jan. 25), it seems clear that WWE’s parent company should do whatever it can to separate itself from the man who built their pro wrestling empire.

The stories contained in the suit are some of the most shocking we’ve heard about McMahon, but they’re certainly not the first controversy he’s been central to over the years. Even if Ari Emanuel and his team choose not to make a moral judgment about McMahon and the decades worth of allegations against him, as businesspeople they have to realize his continued involvement threatens their ability to grow the family-friendly global brand they purchased last year. Even before this case was filed, they admitted so themselves.

But as we learned after the hush money scandal that preceded this week’s bombshell, McMahon will not go without a fight. And Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston points out that the terms of that fight were set in TKO’s initial incorporation documents filed with the United States Security & Exchange Commission:

Unclear TKO can unilaterally force Vince McMahon out as Executive Chairman and may instead need to somehow convince him to resign if they want him gone.

From TKO’s Certificate of Incorporation:

“7.2 Executive Chair. Notwithstanding Section 7.1(b), Vincent K. McMahon shall serve as the Executive Chair of the Board (the “Executive Chair”) until the earliest of his death, resignation or Incapacitation. Any vacancy of the Executive Chair (which, if Mr. McMahon is the initial Executive Chair, shall initially only occur upon the death, resignation or Incapacity of Mr. McMahon) shall be filled by the Board by the affirmative vote of a majority of the Directors.”

Perhaps McMahon could be “convinced” to step down with a big enough check. Given his history of battling every charge against him however, taking a payout to quietly go away isn’t a move we’d expect Vince to make. And you can find plenty of speculation online about what constitutes “incapacitation”, mostly focused on a possible criminal conviction. But while there are signs a Federal investigation is underway, McMahon hasn’t even been charged with a crime at this point.

There’s also the question of what ousting McMahon accomplishes at this point. If a fraction of what’s contained in Janel Grant’s suit is true (or Rita Chatterton’s rape allegation, or the NDA he reportedly had a former wrestler sign after coercing her into performing oral sex on him before demoting her and letting her contract expire when she resisted further sexual advances), it’s the right thing to do — morally and professionally. But as TKO’s statement reminded us, he’s not currently running things at WWE.

So doing whatever they can to ensure McMahon doesn’t make public appearances for WWE or visit backstage at shows is great, but it’s not change. Worse yet, the case laid out in Grant’s suit and what it potentially means about WWE’s handling of past allegations into McMahon’s behavior indicates that this is a deeply ingrained, systemic issue for the organization. A full reading of the suit (which is difficult, but necessary to grasp the full scope — you can find it here) suggests that in addition to other executives, contracted performers, and rank-and-file employees who may have joined in their boss’ alleged misdeeds, there are high-ranking officials still with WWE who were at least generally aware of Vince’s behavior and chose to look the other way or perhaps even helped cover it up.

Can TKO really move forward as long as those people are still with the company, or at least identified and made to address their own actions (or inaction)?

They probably can. Unfortunately, if the past two years of Vince McMahon scandal have taught us anything, neither wrestling fans or the general public have much interest in examining pro wrestling’s seedy underbelly.

But they shouldn’t. Having processed a lot of thoughts and takes on this subject in the past 24 hours, if there’s one that best serves as a “final word” on this matter (for now), it comes from Lance Storm’s appearance on Thursday’s Wrestling Observer Live:

“When you were reading the account of how this started — that’s classic sexual predator stuff. Find someone down on their luck, start grooming them, and bending them to your will. Not only should he be booted off the board, take his keys to the office away, bar him from going to shows, and I think there needs to be a legitimate cleaning house of anyone who covered anything up, who knew about this — like this is absolutely disgustingly horrible, and he needs to be gone and done, and I hope there’s criminal charges brought if any of this is remotely true. Which, with their being so many NDAs and a long list of things, I can’t fathom how it isn’t.”

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