Andrew Yang continued his crusade against WWE’s third-party ban by explaining in a new interview why he doesn’t believe their comparisons to Warner Bros and Disney are valid.
In an interview with Chris Van Vliet, Yang doesn’t hold back on his feelings regarding WWE classifying their wrestlers as independent contractors while controlling what they can do outside of work.
The former Democratic Presidential candidate says the initial story on Superstars being banned from using sites like Cameo and Twitch was sent to him by someone in WWE.
“It infuriated me because I know the WWE has been trying to play it both ways for years. Where they’re saying on one hand – ‘Can’t do anything without our say so. We own you … BUT you’re an independent contractor and we have nothing to do with your health, retirement, any of the benefits you’d get that would accrue to an employeee.’ So, to me, you have to make a choice at some point,” he told Vliet. “If you’re going to control all these aspects of a wrestler or a performer’s waking life, then you should take some responsibility too for that person’s bigger picture.”
“They’re putting their lives on the line, or their health on the line, their family life on the line, all the time. They made Vince a billionaire, and then the fact that he’s still being so heavy-handed about their ability to make a simple buck on Cameo just struck me as so absurd, and ridiculous, and wrong.”
Yang then noted that he’s a lifelong wrestling, so this is something he truly cares about.
As we previously reported, WWE defended their third-party ban decision in a statement which compared the Superstars to characters from Disney and Warner Bros movies. “Much like Disney and Warner Bros., WWE creates, promotes and invests in its intellectual property, i.e. the stage names of performers like The Fiend Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Big E and Braun Strowman,” they said. “It is the control and exploitation of these characters that allows WWE to drive revenue, which in turn enables the company to compensate performers at the highest levels in the sports entertainment industry.”
Yang, however, says this argument doesn’t hold weight.
Here’s what Andrew said when asked if he thought that was a fair comparison:
“I really do not. Because there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that if an actress or performer plays Belle from Beauty and the Beast, that is not actually Belle. She does not live in a magic castle with The Beast. So if the actress then turns around and does something of their own accord, everyone knows it’s talent for hire and she’s doing something else. So, with professional wrestlers, you inhabit a character … but you’re still a human being and you still should be able to do things as any human would do.
If you, Chris, somehow were in a movie and then all of a sudden you weren’t allowed to turn around and do anything as yourself. So I think that the comparison is not very apt. In large part because the treatment is so dissonant. Because on one hand you’re saying, ‘Look, we have no responsibility for you BUT on the other hand we control your very image. Your name in some cases. And you can’t do anything without our say so. In a way, it’s actual inhuman. It’s de-humanizing. It’s saying, ‘Look, you are no longer a human being. You are this character.'”
Yang also said that without the performer, the characters don’t exist, pointing to the fake Diesel and Razor as proof of this point. Adding:
“Disney doesn’t own Emma Watson. It’s not like Emma Watson shows up some place and Disney’s like, ‘Can’t sign those autographs.’ If they want to compare themselves, they should really re-think their values. In large part because if you do look at someone like Emma Watson, or Disney, or Warner … guess what? They’re members of the Screen Actors Guild and they have tons of benefits! If you want to go that direction, Vince, then you’d have to completely change how you treat your workers. Which is a legitimate way to go. And that would be one thing I would suggest. If you want to control their name and likeness, guess what, then they should be part of a union or professional association. They should have benefits up to their eyeballs. Then you could have a conversation with them about some of their activities.”
Van Vliet points out that some would say if a performer signed a contract with these conditions, then wouldn’t it be their fault for agreeing to it.
Yang though says there’s a “vastly uneven bargaining table” at the moment when it comes to WWE, since they hold the keys to the castle in wrestling so to speak, and that these terms are exploitative because there hasn’t been a genuinely competitive market in years. “The reality is that WWE is a quasi-monopoly and imagining that these wrestlers know what they got themselves into … it’s like, well, they didn’t really have a genuine chance to negotiate a bargain,” he said.
This is why Andrew says he’s been rooting for AEW’s success, in order to create real competition.
“I can promise you that if I’m a part of the Biden administration, and I can do something about this, I will,” he continued. “To me it’s crystal clear that performers are employees in everything but name.”
“The affordability argument does not apply to WWE in a way that applies to every other firm,” Yang went on to say. “The company is worth $3.3 billion. If your company is worth $3.3 billion, and you’re mistreating workers, that’s just shameful. Really it’s shameful. There was a point in the distant past where you could’ve made the legitimate argument based upon cost, but now you can’t. Now it’s just plain f*cking greed.”
Watch the full interview below.