I admit, when I first saw people on Twitter talking about how somebody had found offensive posts made by Lars Sullivan on bodybuilding forums a decade ago, I wasn’t particularly interested or concerned. After all, people deserve room to change and grow, especially when they’re in their 20s or younger (Sullivan’s only now 30). Without knowing the specifics of what he said, I was left to consider how rarely digging up dirt from old forum posts actually leads anywhere good or progressive. That was my initial reaction, but this week my mind was changed.
That’s because I’ve now seen the things he actually said on those forums, thanks to this Reddit post and a series of articles that it inspired, including at Paste and Sports Illustrated. I was imagining just another stupid young edgelord making bad jokes, and certainly there’s an element of that, but the actual posts reveal a truly bigoted and hateful young man. He made all sorts of racist comments toward black people, latinx people, and arab people. He said that an openly gay man deserved to be treated like “a worthless outcast of society” and that Muslims “should be demonized for their religion.” He said that there’s “a grey area” in the definition of rape.
There’s not much point, in my opinion, in trying to stand on principle against the general practice of digging up old forum posts when it comes to comments this offensive to this many people. These words are hurtful, no matter how old they are, and it’s hard to argue when the people hurt by those words say that there’s no reason this man needs to be wrestling on our TVs. A WWE contract is hardly an unassailable right, after all.
On Twitter, somebody asked Big E about this situation, and he made an excellent point:
Kalisto’s reaction was even more direct:
Once the whole thing had gone viral and WWE Superstars were tweeting about it, Lars Sullivan issued an apology via WWE. The statement reads simply, “There is no excuse for the inappropriate remarks that I made years ago. They do not reflect my personal beliefs nor who I am today, and I apologize to anyone I offended.” Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect a complex message about growth and change in a wrestler’s public apology, but after reading the things he said all those years ago, it would be nice to be a little more reassured that he’s changed in a profound way.
Whether you think Lars Sullivan deserves to be fired by WWE, or you’d rather see him given a second chance to try and thrive in the diverse WWE of 2019, the bigger question is whether this scandal will die down after his apology, or keep coming up whenever he has a moment in the spotlight. Lars Sullivan isn’t making WWE nearly as much money as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, so if there’s too much backlash to his presence, Lars may find himself out of WWE sooner rather than later, regardless of what he deserves.