“Train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, be true to yourself, true to your country – be a real American,” Hulk Hogan used to say. What happens when your hero turns out to be everything he stood up against?
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Terry Bollea, better known as the larger-than-life Hulk Hogan, was pushed as the face of World Wrestling Federation (as World Wrestling Entertainment was known as back then) at a pivotal time when wrestling was universally praised and reaching a new height in its popularity. During this time, Hogan essentially became the face of American pop culture as Hulkamania ran wild on magazine covers, TV shows, shirts, toys, cartoons, and more.
However, The National Enquirer, in collaboration with Radar Online, recently got wind of Hogan’s racist tirade during “pillow talk” on a sex tape that was recorded several years before clips and images were leaked by Gawker back in 2012. During a conversation about Hogan’s daughter, Brooke, the wrestler aired his grievances to his partner, Heather Clem, about her failing career:
I don’t know if Brooke was fucking the black guy’s son. […] I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean, I am a racist, to a point, fucking n****s. But then when it comes to nice people and shit, and whatever. […] I mean, I’d rather if she was going to fuck some n*****, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n***** worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player!
In a surprising response, the WWE has fired Hogan from his contract, removed him from their iconic Hall of Fame, ceased production and sale of his merchandise, and have practically wiped away all mention of him on their website. Removal of other Hulk Hogan, like documentaries and matches housed on the WWE Network, the company’s On Demand subscription service, may soon follow. The company released a statement concerning Hogan’s firing:
WWE terminated its contract with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan). WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.
However, this isn’t the first time Hogan has been publicly exposed as a racist. Despite a Shade 45 interview that took place in 2012 in which Hogan very openly and comfortably used the n-word to describe his friendships with various rappers like Birdman and Lil’ Wayne and former WWE wrestler Booker T, WWE never went to this level to distance themselves from the very person that helped them achieve success.
For all intents and purposes, this is the end of Hulk Hogan as we know it, especially considering he was essentially the face of American culture at the height of his popularity. There’s no turning back from racist tirades, as evidenced in recent years by Donald Sterling, Michael Richards, and Donald Trump, as it ought to be.
And yet, given the landscape of modern American sociology that has been focused on combating racism and other forms of inequality over the past several years, the Hulkster’s theme song’s claims of him being “a real American” carries with them a sense of irony following the revelation. 30+ years after he transcended wrestling and became an American cultural icon, has Hogan indirectly come to represent the modern white American male in the spotlight?
For his part, Hogan has issued an exclusive apology to People Magazine following the allegations:
Eight years ago I used offensive language during a conversation. It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologize for having done it.
This is not who I am. I believe very strongly that every person in the world is important and should not be treated differently based on race, gender, orientation, religious beliefs or otherwise.
I am disappointed with myself that I used language that is offensive and inconsistent with my own beliefs.
If Hulk Hogan ever returns to the ring, with his hand to his ear in one of his many iconic poses, he should be met with total and complete silence. Hulkamania has finally run dry.