A simple retweet from Stephanie McMahon has opened a Pandora’s Box of controversy for the WWE. Questions are now being asked about the sincerity of the WWE’s philanthropy and the heat has WWE playing defense against a former employee and critics.
The controversy started the day of the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony and the day before WrestleMania. Stephanie McMahon retweeted a comment made by an executive that stated “Philanthropy is the future of marketing, it’s the way brands r going 2 win.” Correct or not, the timing had some people sick to their stomachs.
Unfortunately for Steph the timing of her tweet and the emotions felt by many after watching Connor’s family receive the award created a firestorm. Some critics were downright appalled while some just chalked it up as a simple miscommunication. One voice however was heard louder than most and that was the voice of former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts.
Roberts wrote a lengthy blog about the tweet and Connor. Roberts gave a lot of details on the background of the relationship between Connor’s family and the WWE. Roberts appeared to be very instrumental in that relationship, according to his version as told in the blog. Roberts closed his blog with a very strong accusation against the company as a result of Steph’s retweet.
“When I was reading Twitter this weekend, I felt like I was punched in the gut. Despite rewriting the story and using it to pat themselves on the back for being a standup organization, I wish Connor’s Cure and Connor’s induction into the Hall of Fame were driven by sincerity and not strategy. But sadly, it looks like they are just part of the “philanthropic” future of marketing”
The blog went viral in the wrestling community and a controversy began to erupt. How genuine was this induction? Were we all played like sheep in this beautifully orchestrated marketing ploy by the WWE? The WWE were quick to react by sending out a reaction a few days later steadfastly denying any and all accusations that any recognition of Connor was less than sincere and heartfelt.
“It is offensive to suggest that WWE and its executives had anything but altruistic intentions in honoring Connor and his legacy with The Warrior Award. In conjunction with Connor’s father, Connor’s Cure was established by Stephanie McMahon and Paul Levesque to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer, and to honor a boy that so many people within the WWE family came to love. The fund is managed by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and has already raised more than $200,000 for pediatric cancer research.
In addition, following the Ultimate Warrior’s impassioned Hall of Fame speech last year encouraging WWE to recognize its unsung heroes, the Warrior Award was established in his memory to honor those who exhibit unwavering strength and perseverance, and who live life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of the Ultimate Warrior. With the full support and input of Ultimate Warrior’s widow, Dana Warrior, Connor Michalek was the first recipient of the Warrior Award, and moving forward the award will be given annually to acknowledge other unsung heroes among WWE’s employees and fans.
WWE is proud to use our global platforms to raise awareness for important social causes, including Connor’s Cure as well as our longstanding partnership with Make A Wish, our on-going partnership with Susan G. Komen, which has resulted in more than $1.5 million in funds raised, and our international partnership with Special Olympics.”
For the WWE to react so quickly to a blog by a former employee tells me that there were some people in the company very upset over these accusations or someone was doing some major damage control. Maybe it was a little bit of both yet nonetheless this is hardly the marketing strategy that Stephanie McMahon had in mind when she sent out her retweet.
At the end of the day I really don’t care what the motivations were behind honoring Connor. It was a beautiful moment and it is clear from listening to his family that the generosity shown by the WWE to Connor helped extend his life. Connor’s family and friends benefited from precious seconds, minutes, days, and hours of joy with Connor that they may have never experienced if not for Connor’s distraction.
Additionally, the money and media attention brought to “Connor’s Cure” wouldn’t have come elsewhere. Connor’s battles with cancer was not unique and maybe another family will benefit from the publicity brought by Connor through the WWE. Whatever the motivation was or is, it doesn’t matter to the people who matter the most which are Connor, his family, and anyone benefiting from Connor’s Cure.
Would it have been better for the WWE not to induct Connor because they are receiving some positive press for it? Did Justin not think for a second when he worked with the company that there wasn’t even the slightest motivation at positive publicity and marketing inspiring the coverage and videos? Was it okay because he was still a WWE employee or was he simply the most naïve employee in WWE history? I don’t think anyone for a second believes that the videos on the Special Olympics or Connor aren’t inspired slightly by positive publicity residuals. But guess what? I don’t care! As long as people are being helped and someone is benefiting from this philanthropy I could not care less what the motivation is behind it.
Let’s all be logical for a second here. This is a company here that promotes one of the oldest carnival tricks in entertainment. We are talking about a company where everything is worked and manipulated to create the presentation that the WWE want you to see, not the presentation you want to see. So the idea that anything whether philanthropic or anything else you see on WWE TV doesn’t have some kind of “work” behind it is just simply naïve.
Was the timing of the retweet bad? Yes, and very surprising for someone who seems keen and sharp enough to avoid something like that. Is the WWE benefiting more than anyone else with their philanthropic efforts? I doubt it and as long as children are being helped and a little joy is overtaking pain and fear in a little child’s life for even a few minutes, I simply don’t care what the motivation is behind it.