Vince McMahon Fired WWE Writer Following Opposition To 'Racially Insensitive' Promo

Vince McMahon fired a writer over changing a 'racially insensitive' script

Vince McMahon fired a former WWE writer in 2016 after they made changes to a "racially insensitive" script. 

Former WWE writer Michael Leonardi had two stints in WWE, working for the company in his second run as a creative writer from April 2015 until his exit in January 2016. Taking to his LinkedIn page, Leonardi revealed he was fired by Vince McMahon after making changes to a segment that would have seen PAC (then Neville) say he "had a dream too" on Martin Luther King Jr. Day while in a room with R-Truth, Titus O'Neil, and Mark Henry. None of the talents involved were comfortable with the segment as it was written so Leonardi shot an alternate version, which led to him being chewed out and booted out of WWE. 

"So I was fired over a very particular segment which quite frankly still rubs me the wrong way and I think about it all the time and I always think about what I could have done better if anything to have not gotten fired. So, essentially I was given a segment and this had already gone through a couple of rewrites and this was one of the days where there was a lot of late-minute rewrites, there was a lot of backup with shooting segments. We had another big segment that was being shot at the time with New Day and they were doing a eulogy for their trombone that got destroyed or something. My segment though was involving four talent; three African-Americans. It was R-Truth, Titus O’Neil and Mark Henry and Neville, a Caucasian guy. So this happened to be the Martin Luther King edition of Monday Night Raw," Leonardi began.

"It took place in Columbus, Ohio and it was on a Monday, whatever. It was like January 16th or something like that. I forget the date. Anyway, when I finally got the new script and brought it in, we did not have a lot of time to shoot it and essentially, the script called for Neville to speak up and tell everyone else that, well, he's got a dream too and that dream is to win the Royal Rumble, and I remember Neville coming up to me after he read it and he was like, 'Mike, man, I can't say this.' For anyone that is trying to understand this, trying to compare - these things are comparable and some face, he was a good guy, a wrestler who wants to one day win the Royal Rumble to one of the most iconic speeches in American history about civil rights and how important that was. To try to play on that was dumb," he continued.

"It was poor writing and I'll tell you why, number one, it doesn't make Neville look like a face. That would be something that a heel would say, right? That would be something that a bad guy would say in that way to undermine the importance of that speech at the end of the day. So not only was Neville not comfortable saying it, the other three guys in the room, Titus and R-Truth and Mark Henry were like, 'Yeah, this is f*cking terrible' and so we did not have time to go back and get rewrites and I was not comfortable at all, nor did I even think this was an option quite frankly to try and get them to do it as is. The talent didn't wanna shoot it that way. So what do you do? So, we worked together and we tried to find a way that we could pull this off and it not come off racially insensitive or to basically mock, to some degree, one of the most prolific speeches of all-time by a guy who's supposed to be a good guy too. There was no way that was gonna be pulled off. 

"So we ended up having R-Truth say it who R-Truth is a Hall of Famer. He is so incredible about delivering things and so we had R-Truth say it for Neville in a way that made it fun and warm and not insensitive in any way or not basically making light of just an - on the day of M.L.K. Day! So we shot it that way, we shot it that way, we are running out of time and everybody - my boss, Dave Kapoor was in the room and he approved it and afterwards, Dave said to me, 'Hey Mike, why don't you just go down to Gorilla and tell Vince what we did here, and just give him a heads up.' I said, 'Okay.' So I go down to Gorilla and Vince (McMahon) is sitting in Gorilla where he always used to sit. I mean he's got his headphones on and I said, 'Hey, Vince, just wanna give you a heads up. We shot this thing. Talent had a little bit of an issue with how this was written and so we had R-Truth say the line as well. We think it felt good, we're happy with it. I know it's my responsibility. But, just wanted to let you know,' and I'll never forget this. He's staring at the screen, he takes off his headphones and he turned to me, he said, 'So you didn't give me what I wanted?' And my eyes got big and I'm like, 'Umm...' and I said, 'Yes sir, I know, I understand.' I explained it again, what we did, the circumstances around it, the limitations that we had. I took full responsibility for it and then he just chewed me the f*ck out, pardon my French. Chewed me out," Leonardi added.

"Imagine getting chewed out by Vince McMahon. He got really heated and it's funny, I remember when it was over and I'll get into the details, Brian James, Road Dogg was right next to me... basically, he's waiting to talk to Vince and I'm turning around and the look he gave me was like (an I don't know how to react look). When he does that, when Vince does that, what do you do? There's nothing you can do to even - it's clear that he's been in that position before. I'm not the only one that was on the other end of a lashing. But yeah, so Vince was just chewing me out and I'm saying to him, 'Yes sir, yes sir.' I'm just trying to tell him I acknowledge, I’m listening, I’m trying to learn and man, he goes, ‘Stop saying that! You’re only saying that because you just wanna get out of here!’ And I'm like, what do you want me to say? I'm just listening, I'm acknowledging you," he continued.

"It was a disaster and you know, I remember the next day, we were at SmackDown and he had basically given me another thing with Titus (O'Neil) and basically, the assignment was, Titus has to say this and do this whole segment literally word-for-word. Not one word in the two paragraphs that he had to memorise and say, he had to deliver it. Every single word exactly the same. Every word that was written on that paper had to be said. It ended up taking us two hours to shoot it. Because here's the thing, so many times, this is the double standard. There have been people that have ad-libbed in these things over and over. There's been times when things have been changed. It happens all the time but for some reason, in this scenario and look, I had gotten to a place with Vince - the way people say it, so you have to break through this wall with Vince. If you don't, you're gone, you're done. You have to kind of break through this wall with him to not be almost a threat of being fired, right? And I had just never gotten there with him and clearly... I think it was something that I think he was just really p****d off that the script was changed and even despite explaining the circumstances and the fact was, we were all just trying to protect the company. We're trying to protect the company from putting out a segment that was racially insensitive that just was poor, that just put us potentially in a bad light, over nothing."

Leonardi then questioned if he could have avoided being fired.

"I have replayed that moment thousands of times in my head and I've asked myself, could I have done something to have not gotten fired? And the only thing that I could have potentially, potentially have done, although quite honestly, I wouldn't have even known that and my boss didn't say - he didn’t bring this up as an idea, nobody else did; was I could have gone to Neville and said, 'Hey man' - if I had even knew this. I'm like, listen, this is what Vince wants. This is what's on paper. We have to shoot this. However, why don't we shoot it as Vince told us and then why don't we shoot an alternative with the way that myself and you and the rest of the talent thought was the best version. The segment comes off funny and fun and warmhearted. It puts everyone over at the end of the day and doesn't put the company in a bad light. I can tell you, that would have been the best outcome. But, when you have a talent that is like, 'I'm not saying this. I'm not comfortable saying this' and you have three Black guys on a racially insensitive thing, they're like, 'This is terrible. We can't put this out' and you have no time to go back and get rewrites or anything else like that, you gotta make calls on the fly sometimes and what did we do? We collaborated, we all put our heads together, my boss included and you know, we put together what we thought was the best possible thing. But, Vince thought that was a major, major no-no and I got fired for it, and it is what it is."

Vince McMahon is no longer a part of the day-to-day running of WWE after resigning as TKO Executive Chairman in January. This came after Janel Grant accused McMahon of sex trafficking, sexual assault, and physical and emotional abuse in a lawsuit that also named WWE and John Laurinaitis as defendants. 

WWE settled a lawsuit out of court in 2023 with a former writer who referred to "offensively racist" scripts within the company. 

H/T POST Wrestling

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