Alfred Konuwa is a writer for Forbes.com with a focus on sports and wrestling. He discussed how he’s dealing with the social unrest in the country when he joined The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast earlier today.
“I’m very, very encouraged to see how many people this has affected that previously didn’t seem to have a vested interest before. I think a lot of African Americans can relate to this ? we’ve de facto become the delegates of our race which I’m never comfortable doing. I’m never comfortable speaking on behalf of every black person but I do have several friends from outside my race who have reached out and asked questions,” revealed Konuwa. “I’m just being sure to not look down at them or lash out at them for not knowing some things because I’m really encouraged at the want to learn as that’s most of the battle.”
Konuwa admitted that he is trying his best to learn as well. He noted that right after the tragedy, he didn’t wave a flag as he tried to listen and learn how we got to this point.
“I’m doing everything I can to enlighten myself as to what’s happening and continuing to enlighten others and raise awareness for what’s going on in this system we’re living in,” said Konuwa.
WWE has often been criticized for how they’ve handled racial issues within the company and Konuwa was asked if he feels a stronger push on their part for racial tolerance.
“For the most part, not really. It’s at least tone deaf in how they approach it. I’m sure they definitely want inclusion and they have a very diverse roster. I’m sure they do care about it, but the way WWE goes about in promoting their social equality often comes off as tone deaf and behind the times and Johnny-come-lately,” stated Konuwa.
“But I have nothing but good things for how WWE has handled this George Floyd controversy from the top down. From the wrestlers coming out and saying how they feel and tweeting Black Lives Matter and saying the human words that would be said from people feeling a certain way about this tragedy. One of the things that went through my mind as this started to pick up is that I didn’t want WWE commenting on this. I felt they would do something tone deaf like having all of their black Superstars tweet #AfricanAmericanLivesMatter but not #BlackLivesMatter. But they didn’t do any of that and let people say how they feel. They issued what I thought was a very solid statement and I think for this particular controversy, I do think that it’s genuine. I’ve had problems in the past with how they come across but I have nothing but good things to say at how WWE has handled this issue.”
Jaxson Ryker came under fire recently for praising President Trump on Twitter and Linda McMahon has also done the same. Konuwa was asked if he sees WWE changing their position anytime soon.
“The short answer is ‘no.’ Not anytime soon in terms of real, overwhelming sweeping change. I know WWE has been very supportive of what’s going on, but there’s too many people in power who believe a certain ideal that goes against, at large, the BLM movement and the empowerment of African Americans. WWE is a very strong political force in terms of how they work with Trump. We saw this play out in Florida with WWE being deemed essential and there was some back-room dealing with Linda McMahon and Trump. That’s always going to be an element as long as the McMahons are in power which is gonna be indefinitely. So, I’m’ not looking for a big change right now,” admitted Konuwa.
“This George Floyd thing is unfortunately a wave. With the coronavirus and everyone staying at home, we catch onto these waves whether it’s Tiger King, the Michael Jordan doc and now this. It’s a very serious news story but people will move on from being so wanting to protest. There will be people who support George Floyd until the end of time, but as a nation this is going to go away. When it does, WWE is going to default to WWE.”
Some thing that AEW’s approach to diversity and inclusion has led to them stealing away former WWE fans. Konuwa was asked what WWE can do to improve their business and bring back younger fans.
“That’s the million-dollar question. It would have to start at the top. The system they have of everything goes through Vince is just not working,” said Konuwa. “I’m not trying to shoehorn this in because it’s the zeitgeist that we’re in right now, but WWE has to do a better job of embracing black culture. There’s millions of ways to do this and it’s not just pushing black guys. But WWE is a very uncool product. Their audience is very old and that’s a very concerning problem because as they get older and older, they won’t be able to replace them with young people and they’re not gonna be on TV when that happens.
“So, WWE needs to get younger and in this country young people get excited about black culture. They get excited about references and the platforms that WWE appears on to talk about programming like Breakfast Club that WWE is nowhere near. WWE needs to do a better job of embracing black culture so that the culture is talking about them.”
He added that all races and ages would be more engaged if WWE did a better job of embracing black culture. Having black writers and executives would be a start but there also needs to be an emphasis on consistent storylines and not just letting stuff end without any explanation.
During this time of unrest, some people see wrestling as sort of a bridge and a way to help heal the divide. Konuwa discussed his thoughts on that and how WWE should adopt an approach of a sports league.
“You always hear people express frustrations in terms of building coherent characters that you don’t see as someone who’s less than the brand. I think WWE made a mistake when they made WWE bigger than any of the wrestlers,” stated Konuwa. “That’s never really the way wrestling works as it’s always about the big draw. Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock ? it’s a star-driven business not too different from the NBA. The NFL works just fine as a brand where the NFL stands out over its players. The NBA has never worked like that and WWE is another company that’s never really worked like that. Yeah they’re gonna make a lot of money on TV deals but the week-to-week television is not gonna be compelling when you know that they’re just replaceable cogs in a wheel.”
Alfred Konuwa is a pro wrestling contributor for Forbes.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisIsNasty. Alfred’s full interview aired as part of today’s episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.