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Faking it: Donald Trump's deep ties with the racist, sexist world of professional wrestling

Image: YouTube

If you want a hint at how far Donald Trump's presidency will go, look no further than professional wrestling.  The owners of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) -- the infamous McMahon family -- and President Trump have arguably formed the greatest tag-team of white supremacy both inside and outside the squared circle.

Trump's cabinet includes Linda McMahon, co-founder and former CEO of the WWE, as leader of Small Business Administration. While this stunned some, Trump's close friendship and affiliation with the WWE and the McMahon family goes back 30 years. Trump twice hosted WWE's showcase event Wrestlemania and also appeared as a WWE performer -- each time with vast sums of money exchanging hands.  

Vincent McMahon became the majority owner, chair and CEO of the WWE (then WWF) in 1980. Today, the WWE is the only major professional wrestling company in North America.  McMahon, his wife Linda, and their children Stephanie, Shane and son-in-law Paul Levesque (known as wrestler Triple H) have 96 per cent of the voting power and over 70 per cent of WWE's equity.

Kayfabe politics

In the professional wrestling industry, "kayfabe" refers to the portrayal of scripted events as being "real" to suspend disbelief and maintain an alternate reality. Trump has clearly mastered the art of the kayfabe. His lies,"alternative facts," gratuitous "fake news" accusations, plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and an entry ban for Muslims are storylines not far off from what you might see promoted by the WWE.  

Like Trump, the WWE has habitually portrayed Arabs as terrorists, Latinos as job-stealing, illegal immigrants and Black wrestlers as exotic, uneducated savages. Breitbart News, the xenophobic, radical right-wing news site that helped elect Trump, publishes headlines that could read as WWE storylines ("Political Correctness protects Muslim Rape Culture"). These tactics are central to creating the free license to publicly humiliate, bully and discriminate entire ethno-racial groups.

A WWE tag team billed as the "Mexi-cools" dressed as labourers and arrived to their matches driving lawnmowers. Another character, "Muhammad Hassan" was portrayed as a terrorist who could summon masked henchmen in camo pants to attack his enemies by simply praying. The WWE only quashed this gimmick after pressure from the United Paramount Network following the terror bombings in London in July 2005.  

One of WWE's best-known performers of all time is Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri. Once a highly accomplished amateur wrestler with Olympic aspirations, Vaziri is an Iranian by birth and more famously known as The Iron Sheik.  The Iron Sheik's promos often depicted a desert background with camels. He would enter the wrestling ring waving an Iranian flag and wearing a keffiyeh headdress. In fact, Vaziri fled Iran and sought political asylum in the U.S. After the Persian Gulf War, Viziri's character suddenly transformed into Colonel Mustafa, an Iraqi closely allied with Saddam Hussein. Coincidentally, both Iran and Iraq are included in Trump's travel ban.

The WWE's portrayal of Black wrestlers follows similar patterns. Saba Simba, Bad News Brown, Papa Shango and the Godfather are just a few of the many Black performers who were compelled to perform debased stereotypes.  Kamala the "Ugandan" Giant, a famous wrestling villain, was heralded from the jungle who couldn't speak a word of English. Jim Harris, the American performer who played him, had never even stepped foot in Uganda.  Trump's birther accusation of President Barack Obama fits right in line with the WWE's treatment of Black performers.

It gets worse. At Wrestlemania VI, wrestler Roddy Piper appeared in blackface. Vince McMahon himself used the n-word during a live WWE promo in 2005. Among the close to 50 champions who have held the WWE Heavyweight Championship belt, there have been as many Black WWE champions as Black U.S. presidents. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is the only Black champion in WWE history.

Make Hulk Hogan Great Again

For both the WWE and Trump, "heels," or villains, are routinely cast as persons of colour or foreigners. Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan, the great white hero who headlined eight different Wrestlemanias, entered the wrestling ring with an American flag and the entrance song Real American. Not surprisingly, Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) was one of Trump's celebrity endorsers.  

In 2015, a live sex video (published on Gawker) and a recording of a long racist tirade where Hogan uses racist epithets to disparage Black wrestlers and other Black men became public. The WWE terminated Hogan's contract, but Peter Thiel, the man who fully funded Hogan's retaliation lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker is now a Trump advisor -- along with Linda McMahon.

While Trump hosts Miss Universe pageants, the WWE hosts "bra and panties" matches between women performers. While the president boasted of sexually assaulting women, during one show, Vince McMahon ordered female wrestler Trish Stratus to drop to her hand and knees, bark like a dog and disrobe. This shared vision of white supremacy and misogyny makes McMahon and Trump natural business partners.

Trump earned millions for his WWE performances. The McMahon family donated $5 million to the Donald J. Trump Charitable Foundation (currently under investigation). Linda McMahon -- who had run twice unsuccessfully as Republican Senator of Connecticut in 2010 and 2012 -- also personally made a $6 million contribution to Trump's presidential super PAC. Predictably, Linda McMahon was one of the first to publicly congratulate Trump by tweeting, "What a night! Thrilled to congratulate my friend, President-Elect Donald Trump on a hard-fought campaign and victory."

While politicians flip-flop from one position to another, the WWE pivots more gracefully from heel to hero than any politician. To ensure that Trump and the WWE keep their belts as tag-team champions of white supremacy, any potential threats will be thwarted through future business collaborations rather than the conventional steel chair. Don't be surprised when the Donald or other Trump team members appear in future WWE shows to boost sagging approval ratings and reinforce their shared vision of white hegemony. 

Donald Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. At the ceremony, Vince McMahon said, "When you think about it, second only to me, Donald might very well be a great president of the United States."  

Who could have known how prophetic and accurate those words would be?

vibhor garg works as an Executive Director of a youth-focused organization and has been working with youth programs in the non-profit sector for the past 15 years. vibhor has a strong personal interest in how sports and recreation can be vehicles for social justice and is enthusiastic about supporting social movements that have a strong youth focus. 

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