Andrew Yang, the former Democratic presidential candidate, made headlines in the professional wrestling world recently after speaking out against the edict Vince McMahon sent out threatening punishment for monetizing through third party entities. WWE wrestlers are labeled as independent contractors and Yang has called it a “ridiculous misclassification.”
Yang was interviewed by Chris Van Vliet and took the time to elaborate on his stance against WWE’s business tactics. Yang went on to say that WWE tries to control everything their talent does, and if that’s how they want to operate, the least they could do is offer benefits and proper recovery time for their performers.
“It’s part of the WWE saying they wanted to ban Cameo or Twitch,” Yang stated. “It really infuriates me because they’ve been trying to play it both ways for years. On one hand they are saying, ‘You can’t do anything and we own you, but you’re an independent contractor and we have nothing to do with your health and retirement or any benefits that come as an employee.’ They have to make a choice at some point.
“If they are going to control all of these aspects of their performer’s lives, then they should take some responsibility for those people, bigger picture,” Yang continued. “If they have a kid, maybe they get maternity or paternity leave, maybe they get an offseason, maybe they get proper recovery time. I say this as someone who has been a longtime fan of the sport. They are putting their lives and health on the line all the time. They made Vince a billionaire and the fact that he’s being so heavy-handed about them making a buck on the side on Cameo just struck me as absurd, ridiculous and wrong. It’s past time someone calls Vince out for this and if Joe [Biden] and Kamala [Harris] win, I may be in position to do something about this.”
Part of the edict and call that WWE talent received compared the company to Disney. Yang responded to that claim by saying they are two completely different entities and business models, going further saying that Disney does not claim to own the individual actors or try to stop them from signings or any acting in other movies.
“I really do not [think it’s a fair comparison],” Yang responded. “There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that if an actor or actress plays Belle from Beauty And The Beast, it’s not actually Belle and they don’t live in a magic castle with the Beast. Therefore, if the actor turns around and does something on their own accord, everyone knows it’s for hire and she’s doing something else. They don’t claim to own Emma Watson. With professional wrestlers, you inhabit a character but you’re still a human being and should still be able to do things like any other human could do.
“That includes things like doing an appearance or showing up on Cameo,” Yang continued. “It’d be like if you, Chris, were in a movie and then you turn around and you’re not allowed to do anything as yourself. I think the comparison is not very apt, in large part because the treatment is so dissonant because on one hand they’re saying, ‘We have no responsibility for you, but we control your very image, your name in some cases and you can’t do anything without our say.’ It’s inhuman. It’s dehumanizing. It’s like they’re saying, ‘You’re no longer a human being – you’re this character.’
Yang went on to say that, as a lifelong fan, he’d be open to this being part of an onscreen storyline and conveyed his passion for the business by saying he’s tired of seeing so many professional wrestlers die so young because they feel pressured into performing hurt or injured. He continued by saying WWE being worth billions of dollars yet doesn’t provide benefits to it’s employees is “shameful”.
“This story is dead real,” Yang said. “There are a lot of effective storylines that melded real-life and fiction. I think it could work because the fan’s know and they’re smart. I think that’s one reason that fans love AEW – because they know the talent are taken care of. You can tell it has nothing to do with the bottom line anymore. The McMahons have made so much money and they’re wasting all of this money buying football leagues. The XFL failed again, so it’s like if you’re a wrestler and WWE says, ‘We can’t afford you; you’re fired’ it’s kind of like, ‘Yeah, you can afford me if you could afford to lose millions on that debacle.’
“The affordability factor doesn’t apply to WWE like it applies to other firms,” Yang continued. “If you look at AEW, it feels like their economics are real. WWE is a public company and McMahon is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but spends it on all this dumb stuff. The company is worth $3.3 billion. If your company is worth $3.3 billion and the way the treat their workers is just shameful. You could have made an argument in the past upon cost, but now you cant. It’s just plain f–king greed at this point.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chris Van Vliet with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.