WWE issued a statement Saturday, clarifying its position about the ownership of the “stage names of performers,” but did not mention “real names.”
“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,” the company wrote in a statement. “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. Notwithstanding the contractual language, it is imperative for the success of our company to protect our greatest assets and establish partnerships with third parties on a companywide basis, rather than at the individual level, which as a result will provide more value for all involved.”
It should be noted that for many professional gamers who are signed to esports teams, this is a very familiar situation. This was highlighted in a lawsuit by Turner “Tfue” Tenney filed May 20, 2019, against his former team FaZe Clan (FaZe Clan would later countersue Tenney). While both lawsuits were recently settled amicably, they spotlight the real and ongoing issues that players face when a company controls what they can and can’t do, takes a percentage of the profits from extracurricular activities, and may claim that the player is not entitled to make his or her own decisions even when those activities seem unrelated to the team they play for.
WWE is not the only company that is seeing its stars flock to online activities: sports stars of all stripes from the world of professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and mixed-martial arts have flocked to platforms such as Twitch and YouTube to play games and interact with fans, particularly when most major sports were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview earlier this year Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler told The Esports Observer that what began as a way to pass the time by playing games turned into the realization that platforms like Twitch gave him the chance to build a community directly with his fanbase.
The Esports Observer has reached out to WWE and former and current wrestlers for more information. We’ll update this story should more information become available.
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