More Details Emerge Over “Extremely Racist” Behavior In WWE
More details have come to light over alleged racist behavior taking place in WWE as part of a new lawsuit facing the company.
Vince McMahon and WWE find themselves battling on a new legal front after a former writer for the company launched legal action over “offensively racist” scripts and pitches they were subject to during their time there.
Bianca Belair, Apollo Crews, and Mansoor are among the WWE Superstars named in a lawsuit filed by former company writer Britney Abrahams who alleges that she was discriminated and retaliated against for objecting to “offensively racist” pitches and scripts.
As part of the full lawsuit, more uncomfortable examples of alleged conduct by those in the writer’s room have come to light with Bianca Belair said to have spoken up over verbiage that had been repeatedly presented to her:
“The said scene included offensively racist and stereotypical jargon which Plaintiff found objectionable.
By way of example, according to the script, DUNN intended Ms. Belair, the said black female WWE wrestler, to say, “Uh-Uh! Don’t make me take off my earrings and beat your ass!” which are lines based upon cruel, ugly stereotypes of dark-skinned, black women.
Plaintiff asserts that Ms. Belair uttering that line was, and still is, negatively stereotypical of race and gender, and Plaintiff found it offensive, and still finds it offensive.
Prior to the writing of this scene many of the WWE writers commonly complained that they didn’t know what to do with Ms. Belair.
As a result, Plaintiff undertook researching Ms. Belair’s background, and discovered a fascinating family tree, including an aunt who helped desegregate her high school in the 1960s, and an uncle whose contributions to science were world-renowned.
DUNN allowed Plaintiff to write a first draft of Ms. Belair’s scene, so Plaintiff included positive references to Ms. Belair’s rich family history and sent it to DUNN for feedback.
DUNN told Plaintiff that the draft “looks great. I’m going to make some edits and submit it to [CALLAHAN].”
However, DUNN subjected Plaintiff’s draft to substantial editing, including inserting the said racial Case. That same night, Plaintiff complained about the racially offensive and discriminatory nature of the scene to one of her WWE superiors, Defendant CALLAHAN.
Plaintiff emailed CALLAHAN and said, “I know I’m new, I’m not trying to be disrespectful or step on [DUNN]’s or anyone’s toes, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that [Ms. Belair]’s scene includes racial jargon and offensive stereotypes, particularly her go-home line.”
Plaintiff also requested clarification for protocol on moving forward with her complaint.
In conversation with Ms. Belair the following day, Ms. Belair informed Plaintiff that she told DUNN “3 DIFFERENT TIMES THAT I DON’T WANT TO SAY THAT LINE! BUT HE NEVER LISTENS TO ME! HE PUTS THAT LINE IN EVERY WEEK.”
Ms. Belair said the script’s discriminatory line(s) made her look “ghetto.”
Plaintiff relayed this information to DUNN and politely offered to edit the line(s).
However, despite Plaintiff’s complaint, Defendants failed and/or refused to take any immediate or appropriate corrective action in response.
Plaintiff never received any form of response from CALLAHAN, verbally nor via email, and CALLAHAN never spoke to Plaintiff about her email or the line(s), or the scene.
Additionally, WWE’s failure and/or refusal to address Plaintiff’s complaint emboldened WWE employees, including DUNN and CALLAHAN, to further discriminate against and to retaliate against Plaintiff in response to her protected conduct.
By way of example, WWE kept the discriminatory line in the script. Plaintiff was scheduled to shadow DUNN on two (2) scenes that day, one of which was the said scene with Ms. Belair.
However, around halfway through the day, DUNN informed Plaintiff that she would now shadow CALLAHAN.
When Plaintiff requested DUNN’s assistance, he told Plaintiff “YOU HANDLE IT. IT’S YOUR SCENE NOW.”
CALLAHAN showed up for the taping of Plaintiff’s scenes about 90 seconds before they went live, and he never once mentioned Plaintiff’s email.
Defendants switched Plaintiff’s assignment and made her shadow WWE’s lead writer, who was not present until the show filmed live.
The switch in assignment was due to Plaintiff’s race, and gender and had the purpose and effect of sabotaging Plaintiff’s career with the WWE, and to serve as a pretext for retaliatory adverse actions.
Defendants did not provide Plaintiff with any training on what needed to be done during the live broadcast.
Defendants’ actions were clearly discriminatory as similarly situated white, male WWE employees are not treated in this manner.
Defendants’ actions in this regard were clearly retaliatory, given the temporal proximity between Plaintiff’s protected conduct and WWE’s adverse employment actions.
Defendants’ actions in this regard were done to humiliate, intimidate and undermine the Plaintiff’s performance as she had never been tasked with this responsibility and had no idea of the new role’s requirements.”
Another excerpt from the suit details an allegation that as part of a proposed storyline featuring Mansoor, Aliyah, and Angel Garza that a writer claimed that Mansoor should be found to be “behind the 9/11 attacks”:
“In or around November 2021 a WWE writer, Mr. Zach Hyatt (“Mr. Hyatt”) admitted to Plaintiff and another black, female WWE writer, Ms. Sylvers that he was “afraid to critique his group of Black wrestlers.”
Plaintiff and Ms. Sylvers spoke to the black performers directly, who expressed feeling “unheard and misunderstood culturally” and who thanked Plaintiff and Ms. Sylvers for their compassionate approach to writing for black, and other minority characters.
Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff and Ms. Sylvers proceeded to share this information with their WWE lead writers.
Plaintiff asserts that Defendants engaged and continue to engage in a pattern and practice of discrimination against black female employees, African American female employees, and other minority employees.
By way of example, in or around late November 2021 racially discriminatory comments were casually made by Plaintiff’s white, male Caucasian lead writer CALLAHAN about a Muslim wrestler.
Ms. Sylvers and Plaintiff, the only black writers on the team, at the time, were tasked to pitch a love storyline between wrestlers Aaliyah, Mansoor, and Angel Garza, who are both Muslim).
Ms. Sylvers and Plaintiff pitched that Mansoor has a secret that he’s keeping from Aaliyah.
CALLAHAN disagreed with the secret Ms. Sylvers and Plaintiff wanted for the character.
Instead, CALLAHAN suggested, “how about his secret is he’s behind the 9/11 attacks?”
Ms. Sylvers nervously laughed and said, “let’s not do that. Let’s talk about the other part of the pitch.”
CALLAHAN said, “Oh, I guess you’re the lead writer now.”
Ms. Sylvers again laughed nervously, and said, “for just this moment so we can talk about something else.”
Following this, whenever a writer asked CALLAHAN a question, he would reply, “ask [Ms. Sylvers], she’s the lead writer now.”
CALLAHAN’s comments and conduct in this regard were clearly discriminatory given Plaintiff’s similarly situated white, Caucasian counterparts were not treated in this manner.
Additionally, HELLER shared a sexist pitch for a Muslim female wrestler wherein the said female wrestler lacked authority over her own mind and body.
Again, Ms. Sylvers and Plaintiff created a love storyline between wrestlers, Aaliyah, Mansoor, and Angel Garza.
In this pitch, Aaliyah and Mansoor were meant to fall in love, while a jealous Angel tries to break them up. The pitch made Aaliyah appear intelligent and confident in herself and desires, containing Aaliyah speaking up for herself against both Angel and Mansoor, and having her love and affection earned.
Ms. Sylvers and Plaintiff pitched this storyline to HELLER, who expressed confusion about Aaliyah and her choices, particularly her never wanting to be with Angel, who is the obvious villain in the story. HELLER was also confused that Aaliyah wasn’t “crying on the stairs after her breakup with Mansoor.”
HELLER then counter-pitched that Plaintiff make the storyline a love triangle objectifying and bimbofying Aaliyah. HELLER’s sexist counter-pitch included Angel being forward and aggressive in his efforts to date Aaliyah, Aaliyah being easily swayed by Angel’s evil tactics, and Aaliyah being confused about which guy she should date, oscillating between the two men until the end of the storyline.
HELLER and CALLAHAN made these discriminatory comments while Plaintiff and other female black, African American employees were in his presence in the writer’s room.
HELLER’s and CALLAHAN’s comments and conduct were clearly discriminatory.
Plaintiff immediately complained about these racially discriminatory comments.
Plaintiff spoke up and asked, “Doesn’t that take away Aaliyah’s agency?”
Plaintiff told HELLER that she wanted to make a pitch that was “more feminist, especially because Aaliyah’s character is already marketed as being ‘super-hot.’”
Plaintiff along with a number of her co-workers, including Ms. Sylvers and Mr. Barbash also complained about the discriminatory nature of their lead writers’ comments.
Rather, in response to Plaintiff’s protected conduct, Defendants intensified their campaign of retaliatory adverse employment actions.
By way of example, LUBRANO met with Plaintiff and Ms. Sylvers and deliberately downplayed HELLER’s and CALLAHAN’s discriminatory remarks by claiming that she “heard it was a joke. And wacky things are said in the writer’s room all the time!”
When Plaintiff indicated that, “it doesn’t make it okay,” LUBRANO responded, “I know but look at the waves we’re making in the company. 4 years ago, no woman worked on the writer’s team!”
LUBRANO followed up and told Plaintiff she was doing a great job and that “[Pritchard], [MR. MCMAHON], and [MS. MCMAHON] love [Plaintiff’s] writing. But [Plaintiff] should be careful to pick and choose [Plaintiff’s] battles.”
However, despite Plaintiff’s complaints, Defendants refused to take any immediate and/or appropriate corrective action in response.”
WWE has not yet responded publicly to the lawsuit.