Peacock is currently in the process of vetting racist content from its massive WWE content catalogue.
Peacock announced it would become the exclusive home for WWE Network content back in January, with 17,000 hours of new and original WWE Network programming as well as pay-per-view events like WrestleMania and SummerSlam. But citing sources familiar with the matter, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Peacock is currently in the process of combing through WWE’s massive library and removing racist segments.
The segments being culled from the library reportedly include a 1990 appearance by Roddy Piper during WrestleMania VI, in which he appears with half of his face painted black and states: “I can stand here, and I can be Black! I can be white! Don’t make no difference to me. … It’s what’s inside.” The comment was prefaced by a reference to Bad News Brown being “proud to be from Harlem.”
Another removed moment reportedly includes a previously criticised 2005 segment during which WWE boss Vince McMahon used the n-word, which a spokesperson later characterised as “an outlandish and satirical skit involving fictional characters, similar to that of many scripted television shows and movies.”
A spokesperson for Peacock declined to comment but did confirm that the WWE content is currently being vetted, as is other content on the service, and that all content on Peacock is rated according to a parental guidelines system. The company did not specify whether it’s removing specific elements that it deems inappropriate or canning those episodes entirely.
WWE content is available on Peacock as a dedicated hub in the U.S. The content is offered as part of the Peacock Premium tier for $US5 ($7) a month, or as an ad-free experience on the service’s Premium Plus plan for $US10 ($13) per month.
At the time that Peacock announced the WWE content partnership, Peacock Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Rick Cordella said in a statement that WWE had “always tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with spectacular live events and larger-than-life characters, and we are thrilled to be the exclusive home for WWE Network and its millions of fans across the country.”
A streaming service removing elements or scrubbing entire episodes containing racist or problematic content is not unprecedented. Disney+, for example, removed several titles from kids profiles that have not aged well, including Dumbo and Peter Pan. It also ran disclaimers on some content that read, “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”
“Stark Raving Dad,” a 1991 episode of The Simpsons featuring the voice of Michael Jackson, is also missing from the service’s catalogue, although the episode had previously been removed from syndication and box sets following HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary.
Last year, HBO Max removed and then reinstated Gone With the Wind after the company was criticised for the film’s racist depictions, with the company saying at the time it would “return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”