AS I SEE IT 6/15: John Layfield and the cheapest heat of all
by: Bob Magee
(Picture credit: Wrestlingcorner.de and Moonsault.de)
Insensitive beyond words.
Beyond any common decency.
Those are just a few of the phrases used expressing opinions on the actions depicted in the picture above from Moonsault.de, as John "Bradshaw" Layfield ceased to use any form of reasonable judgement by attempting to get heel heat by giving a Nazi salute as well as goosestepping to a crowd in Munich, Germany, at a time when many around the West were remembering the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that led to the liberation of Europe.
It's notable that such actions have been against German law since World War II as part of post-war laws enacted against Third Reich imagery and symbols, including the possession of swastikas and making the stiff-armed Nazi salute.
It's also notable that Munich was the birthplace of the Nazi Party.
After the incident became public, CNBC received thousands of calls and emails from fans demanding that the company take some action. The actions cost Layfield his job as a financial analyst on CNBC. He had been hired last month by CNBC after serving for some time as a financial analyst for Fox News Channel. In a statement, a CNBC spokesman said Layfield was fired because, "We find his behavior to be offensive, inappropriate and not befitting anyone associated with our network."
That is certainly an understatement.
WWE also responded to the incident through a statement on its web site, and to those e-mailing WWE regarding the incident:
"WWE and John Layfield deeply regret Mr. Layfield's actions in the ring at our event in Munich and apologize if it has offended or upset our fans. Mr. Layfield has been reprimanded for his actions."
Oddly enough, the apology was removed from WWE.com only hours after it was posted. One possible reason was indicated by Dave Scherer, who reported on PWinsider.com that Vince McMahon was alleged to be less upset at Layfield for doing it than being was upset at CNBC "for reacting so heavy-handedly to what Layfield did." It has also been suggested that the statement on WWE.com was an attempt to keep CNBC from firing Layfield, and was removed after it was clear such a statement would make no difference.
Last Wednesday, the Associated Press ran a short four paragraph story on the situation, covering the basic of the story. That item put the story in newspapers all over America the next day.
A WWE representative attempted to explain the situation away to Washington Post writer Lisa de Moraes saying that "...What he did in the ring was not probably the best thing to have done...We all understood why he did it and know that his intentions were good ones in terms of trying to make it the best experience for the fans and his fellow professional Eddie Guerrero -- to get the fans even more with [Guerrero], which is what John was supposed to do as the bad guy."
There are also organized groups of fans that are started e-mail campaigns to such major media outlets as MSNBC, Reuters, CNN, FOX NEWS, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, about this situation. Others are e-mailing UPN as the carrier of the WWE Smackdown show on which Layfield appears.
Now there are some people who will likely suggest that American wrestling featured "Nazi heels" galore over the years ranging from Waldo Von Erich (and even Fritz Von Erich in his early career), Baron Von Raschke, and Karl Von Hess, to name just a few. They'll ask why a significant number of wrestling fans were so upset.
That was then. This is now....
It's important to again remember that the incident occurred in Germany, where such a gesture is illegal under any circumstances. It wouldn't be hard to imagine that there were fans in the stands that evening in Munich that had lost loved ones to Hitler's Nazi regime, whether in the Holocaust or elsewhere in the nightmare of World War II.
John Layfield himself attempted to explain the incident in the aforementioned Washington Post article claiming "They hung me out to dry..."I was playing a character. It's the same as Vin Diesel playing a Nazi." Layfield insisted he was not an anti-Semite and, in essence said he did it to get heel heat during the match with Eddie Guerrero that night in Munich.
Layfield further stated that "I'm a bad guy [on WWE]. I'm supposed to incite the crowd. I've done [the Nazi gestures] for decades. I really didn't think anything of it -- I know how bad it is, I've lived [in Germany]. I've been to Dachau, seen those places where they exterminated millions of Jews...I draw the line between me and my character. That's like saying Anthony Hopkins really enjoys cannibalism."
So how can someone who's been to Dachau act in such a way?
How can he go in front of people who may have had loved ones die at Dachau, or Auschwitz, or Treblinka...or anywhere in the cities, the towns, the fields of Europe...and use some of the most hated symbolic gestures of the 20th century?
What's worse...how can Vince McMahon and WWE, as they are apparently doing, just look the other way?
Yes, I know it's the job of a wrestling promotion to get a heel over as a heel.
But there are places you simply don't go. This was one of them.
Until next time...
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