The last 24 hours have to have felt like a whirlwind for Darren Young. The WWE superstar, and one half of the Primetime Players tag team, told a TMZ reporter yesterday morning that he was gay. This morning, he was on NBC's 'Today Show' for an interview with Matt Lauer.
As part of the interview, Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, said that he wants to be a role model and tell his story to a larger audience.
I will probably get a mixed reaction, maybe some good, some bad, but at the end of the day I want to be able to be a role model...I want to be a role model to people that are afraid to come out. I want to be able to speak at different functions and educate and tell my story because my story goes further than being gay.
As a young child, I had a speech impediment, a stuttering problem, I got bullied, I got picked on, but that didn’t stop me from becoming a WWE superstar. I got the help I needed. I had a speech pathologist help me out, and I’m living the dream now.
As fellow B/R writer Mike Chiari chronicled throughout the day yesterday, a number of members of the WWE family have shown public support for Young in social media. The WWE is embracing Young's pride and courage.
WWE has long battled an image problem.
The roots of professional wrestling are entrenched in southern culture. It's often associated with negative "redneck" stereotypes. That's not the affectionate, awe-shucks caricature represented by Jeff Foxworthy; but rather an ignorant, isolated, and frequently homophobic and racist stereotype.
The Attitude Era fed on this culture, fueled by crash television of the likes of Jerry Springer seeing record ratings. The company's biggest star of the era was a beer-swilling, foul-mouthed redneck in jean shorts that enjoyed riding a four-wheeler. At the time, it worked and resulted in big ratings and lots of money.
Now, though, the WWE is pushing for family friendly programming. The Be A Star campaign reaches out to kids and tells them not to bully. The foul language has been significantly limited from television. We rarely see blood during matches.
One of the TMZ reporter's questions was valid. Could an openly gay performer succeed in professional wrestling? While we know Pat Patterson thrived in his era and has remained active within the WWE, he was not open about his sexuality until long after his career was complete.
As the United States becomes increasingly open and accepting of homosexuality, it makes sense for the WWE to embrace this opportunity and elevate Darren Young.
This does not mean he should receive a push due to his latest viral celebrity, but he will become a fixture of the Be A Star campaign. He has the opportunity to be that role model he said he'd like to become.