The relationship between pro wrestling icon Hulk Hogan and the WWE was terminated Friday, amid unconfirmed reports of an alleged racist tirade made by the 61-year-old.
“It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologize for having done it,” Hogan said in an exclusive statement to People magazine Friday, in which he referred to his departure from WWE as a resignation.
How did Hogan’s career take such a dramatic hit so quickly? The timeline of events is curious to say the least.
Initially, there were rumors that Hogan was let go over a radio interview he gave on DJ Whoo Kid’s Sirius XM show “Whoolywood Shuffle” back in 2012. In that incident, he used the n-word while relating a story about how a fellow wrestler, Booker T, who is African-American, accidentally used the slur to describe Hogan during a now infamous pre-fight interview:
Hogan went on say that members of hip-hop community had used the n-word affectionately with him. “I always said it, but now all of a sudden I get heat when I say it, and they say, ‘Hogan, you can’t say that,’ so I say, ‘Why can they say it to me then?’” the wrestler mused at the time.
Meanwhile, Hogan tweeted a somewhat cryptic message in the wee hours of the morning:
Fans of the WWE and writers quickly noticed that Hogan’s recognizable image had been unceremoniously wiped from the wrestling organization’s website and their Hall of Fame:
Eventually, the WWE released a statement where they stated their commitment ”to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide,” without explicitly addressing the chatter about Hogan:
Later on Friday, gossip sites Radar Online and The National Enquirer reported that the alleged racist remarks in question actually came from a purported 2008 sex tape featuring Hogan, which is the catalyst for an ongoing $100 million lawsuit against Gawker Media.
According to the Associated Press, Gawker posted part of a sex tape of Hogan with Heather Cole, the then-wife of radio show host Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. Hogan is alleged to have repeatedly used the n-word and described himself as a racist in audio obtained from the tape. While the content of that alleged recording has not been confirmed by NBC News, Hogan did allude to having used racist language in his statement to People magazine.
“This is not who I am. I believe very strongly that every person in the world is important and should not be treated differently based on race, gender, orientation, religious beliefs or otherwise. I am disappointed with myself that I used language that is offensive and inconsistent with my own beliefs,” Hogan said in that statement.
Hogan has arguably been the most famous face associated with pro-wrestling since he rocketed to fame in the early 1980s. He appeared in the very first Wrestlemania in 1985, feature films like “Rocky III,” starred in a VH1 reality series and even inspired his own children’s cartoon series.
Amid the ongoing controversy, Hogan still has his fair share of defenders:
Additional reporting by Douglas Holloway