Throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic, the WWE has moved along without fans in attendance to their weekly events. That has pushed Vince McMahon and his company to utilize virtual fans. However, that has also sprouted a concerning issue involving a fan’s use of the Klu Klux Klan.
WWE holds SummerSlam with virtual fans
Like many of the other industries across the globe, the WWE has embraced the route of using virtual fans.
That is something that they used during SummerSlam on Sunday in their uniquely created “ThunderDome.” The WWE built up hype around the arena that is located at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. The setup to the event featured many rows of virtual fans streaming live from their homes of themselves watching the program.
In many ways, it shares several similarities to what the NBA has done with their fans since restarting the 2019-20 season in the Orlando Bubble in the Disney World resort. It provides a unique visual look while the WWE also pumped crowd noise throughout the entire arena. It’s a set up that went forward with much success, but that came with a notable incident that dragged the company down.
WWE issues strong statement against KKK incident
The WWE went through their SummerSlam event without any issues arising. However, problems came about on Monday night during Raw as a virtual fan donned KKK attire that included a white hood.
The entire situation was visual during the main event match on the program on USA Network. It didn’t take long for the WWE to respond by putting out a public statement that these actions didn’t reflect what the company stands for while underlining their zero-tolerance toward that behavior. (H/T Marc Raimondi of ESPN)
“This abhorrent behavior does not reflect WWE’s values and we have zero tolerance for these unacceptable acts,” WWE said in a statement Tuesday. “We are working to ban those involved from future events and per our policies, any inappropriate actions result in the removal from the live stream.”
It wasn’t just that video that put the WWE in hot water as there were other violations from fans. One saw a man getting his throat slashed, and another displayed a photo of disgraced former wrestler Chris Benoit, who murdered his wife and son before he died by suicide in 2007.
The WWE’s guidelines for virtual fans prohibited the streaming of any “offensive, discriminatory, or distasteful” images or videos along with any political statements or violence. There was a clear violation of these rules as the company will look to closely monitor what fans do moving forward.
A learning lesson moving forward
It has been a rough experience dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for all entertainment industries, and the WWE is no different.
The company has thrived off fan interactions over the years, which has helped them become the largest wrestling business globally. That also has seen them deal with plenty of unpleasant incidents, in which this situation falls into that category. All the WWE can do is learn and adjust moving forward with their use of virtual fans.
It’s not something that Vince McMahon will abandon, but instead, choose to put stricter restrictions. Meanwhile, the WWE has stated that it will ban any fan if they violate the guidelines. It’s also something that other industries such as the NBA and NFL can use as an example to avoid those issues in the future.