WWE superstar Titus O'Neil appeared on E&C's Pod of Awesomeness this week to discuss his new book, 'There's No Such Thing As A Bad Kid'. During the podcast O'Neil segued to the Lars Sullivan situation. The superstar shared his perspective on Sullivan after their conversation together.
"Lars sought me out," O'Neil said. "And he sought other people out. And I sat with Lars for about thirty-five minutes in Talent Relations just me and him. I saw a man that clearly, number one, made mistakes in his choice of words and his mindset and how he expressed himself years before he became a co-worker of mine."
Sullivan was fined $100,000 for some misogynistic and bigoted comments that he made years ago on a body building forum. Though Sullivan's comments have been criticized by many, including fellow WWE superstars like Big E, O'Neil's words and tone were colored with open mindedness as he admitted that humans have the capacity to change. O'Neil also declared that the public should not draw up their own conclusions without knowing the whole truth about a given situation nor understanding the people involved.
"People automatically called for him to be fired, called for him to be ostracized," O'Neil said. "My thing is number one, people change. And if that's who he really is, then yeah, he has no place in any profession whether it's professional wrestling or wherever. He doesn't deserve to live a life of luxury or live a life of grace if he chooses to be that person. But I looked a man who was humble. Very apologetic. Very misguided as well. We dwelled and talked about some things. Not to say, there's ever an excuse but until you know someone's story and until you know somebody personally, you can't take it personal and you can't come up with your own conclusions because there is a conclusion and there is a reason why people get to a certain point and do certain things."
O'Neil admitted that he has a 'respect' for how Sullivan went about the situation as a man. O'Neil said Sullivan could have let WWE handle the situation in their own way, but chose to take responsibility and face it directly.
"I believe in my heart that this situation with Lars will be a teachable moment for everybody from all walks of life," O'Neil said. "And I'm willing to put my name on this situation just going with my gut and my heart simply because of how he came to me as a man. And how he came to other people as a man and said 'Look man, I don't have any answers. I don't have any excuses. I just want to be a better human being.' As a man, to sit down with another man in that circumstance, you have my upmost respect. He could have easily evaded me. He could easily let the company deal with it however they were going to deal with it and not said a word. And he chose to go a different route."
O'Neil wants Sullivan to learn from the situation and spread the lessons to those around him. His hopes are for Sullivan and others to understand why comments, like those made by Sullivan, can be offensive. O'Neil does believe, however, that the aftermath of this situation will be rich with enlightenment.
"So, I am hoping that my gut is right, I'm going to do my best to not let him get past it but actually learn from it," O'Neil said. "Learn why what he said was offensive to people of color and people of certain sexual orientation. But I also want him to utilize this opportunity to grow other people around him. Maybe people he grew up with. Maybe his dad. Mom and dad, brothers, whatever. Everybody can learn from this based on how he responds to it. I feel it's going to be a very positive outcome. When it comes to people making mistakes, people making bad judgement calls, not one person is perfect including myself".
O'Neil also had words for those who criticized Sullivan. Pointing out the hypocrisy of online critics by saying they couldn't have came forward the way Sullivan had.
"When it comes to people, everyone deserves an opportunity," O'Neil said. "If that's not who he is now, then let him have the opportunity and take the opportunity to show that. Most of the people making comments are nowhere near as brave to say what they say or interpret what they interrupt away from those keyboards."
You can listen to the podcast below: