How Much Did One Word Cost CM Punk?
By Kevin Kelly
A week following the most memorable moment of his career, CM Punk endured the most embarrassing moment in his career. His use of a gay slur landed him in hot water and led to an apology. With that one slur, CM Punk went from being in control of the WWE to once again being controlled by the WWE.
To me, the biggest mistake that CM Punk made was lingering too long in one area at ringside, getting into a verbal battle, with a fan egging him on. Engaging the fans is part of the fun of being a wrestler but the wrestler has to be in control. Big Bossman could get a reaction from the entire arena by staring a hole in one fan at ringside, never saying a word. The one fan would verbally come back at Bossman, leading to the whole section coming up as they waited for Bossman to physically reply. A simple glance around by Bossman then led to the rest of the audience joining in, waiting to see what would happen.
Heat is good. Swearing or other vulgarities offend and is cheap heat.
A quick trip around YouTube shows other athletes using similar language as Punk. Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA for shouting “blanking fa**ot” at a referee earlier this year. In 2008, the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett said the same words to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans, inadvertently captured in slow-motion replay by TNT. And, no fine for Garnett, by the way. Those two examples don’t excuse Punk but he’s not the first and won’t be the last.
Did the referee deserved to be called that by Kobe Bryant? How about the Cavs’ fans by Garnett? Of course not. But what was the fan saying to CM Punk? I’ve watched the clip several times and can’t make out what the fan was saying that led to Punk’s reaction but did that lead Punk down the road he now regrets traveling? Either way, no excuse but when you are in the public eye, there can be a double-standard. That’s why the wrestler has to be in control of the situation, rather than the situation being in control of the wrestler.
Did CM Punk cost himself dearly in the court of public opinion? Reading the front page of The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s website, there was no condemnation over the incident. The site did cover a recent apology from comedian Tracy Morgan for gay slurs he made during a June 3rd comedy show. (http://www.glaad.org/tracymorgan) The “30 Rock” star has been known to make controversial statements in the past but took full responsibility for his actions and his apology was well-covered, in my opinion, by the advocacy site, dedicated to the GLBT community.
Did the WWE make Punk apologize? I don’t know but boy, they distanced themselves as quickly as possible. The WWE also played the “independent contractor” card the first hand. Now, the WWE is telling GLAAD that Punk is gone as of July 18th.
Did CM Punk injure his bargaining power? If the WWE had a bigger money offer on the table, I have to wonder if it was rescinded.
And how is political correctness affecting business decisions in the WWE? They fired Finlay for producing the live event segment where Miz interrupted the National Anthem. If they don’t retain Punk or if their business relationship ends in two weeks, did this episode play a role? Time will only tell.
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