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Joey Styles was fired by Gabe Sapolsky of EVOLVE, not because he wasn’t “P.C.,” but because he defied a crystal clear mandate made by his bosses not to bring politics into his commentary. If Styles had been told not to make any mentions of food or cars or chickens and he defied that order, it’d be justifiable to fire him. This notion that pro wrestling’s P.C. Police are coming down on Joey is just ridiculous.
Announcers are handed a live mic and, more than anyone else on a live pro wrestling event, set the tone for the show and represent the brand. His bosses trusted him to follow what was a crystal clear mandate. Gabe Sapolsky and SlamFlo executives wanted a politics-free show on a week when emotions were running high.
Trying to turn a celebrity or politician’s comment about unwanted sexual contact – especially when put as crudely as “grab them by the…” phrase – into a joke wasn’t serving the company that was paying him. It was serving his own desire to put himself over as Mr. Non-P.C. “What will Joey say next!?!” He was building his “brand” at the expense of the expressed desires of those who chose to hire him and agreed to pay him in exchange for his services.
This isn’t a First Amendment issue, either. The First Amendment only prohibits government blocking free speech. The government is not involved here. This is someone defying his bosses’ orders and being relieved of his duties as a result.
Also, saying you’re not being P.C. is not carte blanche to say anything no matter how lame, offensive, or stupid, nor is it a free pass to defy your bosses’ explicit orders. Nobody gets away with that in the workplace, and for good reason.
Jeremy Botter, managing editor of FlorSlam, wrote on Twitter: “For the record: Joey Styles’ claim that I wasn’t upset is false and a mischaracterization of what actually happened. I was upset.”
If Styles felt the one-liner was good and fell outside of the parameters of the restrictions he and the entire crew were given before the show, he should have had the courtesy to run it past his bosses first to get approval.
Any other wrestling company that chooses to disassociate with Styles has that right, also. If they can’t trust him with a live mic to follow their orders, and they think he’s at risk of going into business for himself to try to get himself over, then it’s their prerogative to hire another announcer instead.
If Styles is a much better announcer than anyone else he has beaten out for the jobs he’s been offered, he’ll get work again. If he isn’t, and it’s because he showed he can’t be trusted with a live mic, that’s the price he’ll pay.
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(PWTorch editor Wade Keller launched the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter in 1987. Over 1,400 weekly issues have been published and millions have been sent worldwide over the last 30 years. He hosts the PWTorch Livecast at www.pwtorchlivecast.com every Monday right after Raw, every Tuesday right after Smackdown, every Wednesday for the Mid-Week episode with rotating cohosts at 1 ET, and everything Thursday at 1 ET with special interview guests, with tens of millions of downloads since 2009 and counting. He was inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame with the “Jim Melby Excellence in Journalism” award, Class of 2015. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @thewadekeller.)