New York Post – April 2, 2000
By Phil Mushnick
Early last week, as NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol was putting the final touches to NBC’s partnership with his mirror-image, Vince McMahon, parents and guardians of students at Brooklyn’s P.S. 29 received a letter.
Principal Eve MacCurry wrote to inform them that pro wrestling sold by McMahon on primetime TV has taken hold of many of their kids, that her grammar-schoolers are using the same “objectionable language and gestures” used by pro wrestlers. She added that students are emulating the brutality of pro wrestling, warning that if it doesn’t cease someone will be hurt.
Attached to the letter was a response form acknowledging receipt of the letter and that the issue had been discussed with the child.
Ms. MacCurry did not specify the objectionable behavior, and I apologize preemptively if any of her students or any other kids read this, but it’s important for responsible adults to know that the act she referenced is not limited to Ms. MacCurry’s tastes. It’s the act in which WWF wrestlers point to or grab their crotches while hollering, “Suck it!
The fact is, Ms. MacCurry, that’s an old one. There are newer and equally vile acts that serve McMahon as wildly successful weapons in the marketing of children.
“It’s horrendous,” Ms. MacCurry said by phone. “Parents are calling to complain about how their child was physically or verbally abused by other kids, in school or on the way home. And it all comes directly from pro wrestling on TV.”
Ms. MacCurry joins the swelling ranks of principals of public, private and parochial schools, kindergarten through high school; the ranks of teachers, clergy, child psychologists and psychiatrists, social scientists and right-headed adults who recognize the price we pay for Vince McMahon, NBC’s proud new partner.
Perhaps McMahon will respond to these folks the way he did when his WWF stock plunged following his announcement that he was getting into the football business. Perhaps he’ll deliver the same, press-conferenced message he delivered to investors: “Kiss my ass!”
Tomorrow at 10 p.m., Court TV will air a one-hour show on what the soaring popularity of pro wrestling has done for America, including four recent cases of children, none older than 12, killing even younger children by emulating pro wrestlers. What once was a sad peculiarity — pro wrestling-inspired death or serious injury of children — is now coming with a rush.
Perhaps McMahon will tell the families of the murdered children that they, too, can kiss his ass.
How proud NBC and its parent company, General Electric, must be to now be in financial and programming partnership with Vince McMahon.
In addition to buying into McMahon’s XFL, a football league aimed at young viewers through what a McMahon spokesperson calls its more “visceral” content (he couldn’t say “crude”), NBC purchased $30 million in stock in McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation Entertainment company. Proud as a peacock.
At Wednesday’s media conference to announce the deal, Ebersol made with the same con that McMahon’s so practiced at. He portrayed the WWF as just a fun thing — “Where’s your sense of humor?” he asked. And good, clean fun, at that — “In my viewing of Vince’s programming,” he said, “I wouldn’t classify anything as vulgar.”
If that’s the case, Ebersol wouldn’t have a problem repeating or describing what’s said and done on WWF programs, would he? He’d be eager to make his presentation at, say, a GE stockholders’ meeting, wouldn’t he? He could even bring some WWF videotape along for a little show and tell.
If it’s not vulgar, why not treat an investors’ conclave to some of McMahon’s fun stuff? Show ’em what you and NBC and GE bought into, show ’em how NBC’s new partner attracts kids and the Holy Grail of TV, “the younger, male demographic.”
Ebersol can start by grabbing his crotch and shouting “Suck it!” Then he could point to some female stockholders and call them “bitches” and “ho’s,” perhaps even tear their clothes off, then slap ’em around, WWF-, primetime- style. Bar graphs showing the rise in WWF popularity among kids can serve as the backdrop.
Ebersol could even imitate WWF star, “The Rock,” by calling for the women stockholders to give him some “sweet p——g pie.” McMahon sells that one to kids on TV and T-shirts.
With his audience warmed up, Ebersol could then do an imitation of The Godfather, the stereotypical black street pimp, a recurring WWF character. Then a little homophobic stuff. He could strut around like a glitter queen, encouraging the stockholders to chant, “Faggot! Faggot!” — the same way kids at televised WWF shows have done.
For his grand finale, Ebersol could roll the tape of McMahon’s primetime presentation of a transvestite performing oral sex on a pro wrestler.
If any stockholders objects he can just say, “Hey, where’s your sense of humor?” Or tell them to kiss his ass.
Ebersol, the president of NBC Sports and a former WWF TV partner of McMahon’s, has never seen anything in McMahon’s shows that he’d classify as vulgar. You believe him, don’t you?
Last year, after UPN President Dean Valentine bought into the WWF — and in the process sold out UPN’s newscasts as WWF promotional tools — he said much the same things as Ebersol did last week. Valentine called the WWF “an incredibly mild form of entertainment.” He told people to “lighten up.”
A few months later, UPN’s incredibly mild form of entertainment moved several advertisers to pull out due to its pornographic content. Still, UPN’s WWF ratings were huge. The WWF, at least temporarily, saved the desperate network from financial ruin.
Ebersol, in the kind of contradiction that McMahon specializes in, said that while McMahon programming isn’t vulgar, some of it isn’t appropriate for his 13-year old son.
If some of it’s inappropriate for his 13-year-old, why is it appropriate for our 13-year-olds and younger? Ebersol knows that, like McMahon, McMahon’s advertisers target children. He knows that aisles at Toys ‘R Us are loaded with WWF merchandise. Why would he put NBC in bed with a guy who produces children’s’ programming that’s inappropriate for children?
But what’s done is done. The man who has had the cruelest, most twisted, most unconscionable impact on American children in the history of television is now in partnership with NBC.
And with McMahon’s XFL (the X tells the story) now an NBC property, CBS/Viacom remains hungry for WWF primetime programming. CBS has made a bid believed to be roughly $100 million for an equity stake in the WWF. How proud CBS must be.
Late last week we received calls from several NBC staffers, all of them revulsed by NBC’s embrace of McMahon. An NBC News employee said he was “literally sickened” by the news, “my stomach actually turned.” After all, how can NBC News report on the ills of society when NBC has bought into a company that does such staggering dirt to us all?
NBC News should be investigating what McMahon does, how and to whom. But now McMahon’s on the same team. While all network news divisions have been co-opted by their networks’ programming, now it cuts to the bone.
As bad as it is, Principal MacCurry, be prepared: It’s going to get worse. Garbage sells, the worst garbage sells best and the younger audiences are what TV fights hardest over. NBC has abandoned even its minimal sense of decency, CBS is on deck. We grow more diminished by the day.
But don’t give up, Ms. MacCurry. You’re on the side of the angels. Keep fighting for the kids.