Tony Khan responds to criticism over diversity within AEW by Big Swole

Originally published at Tony Khan responds to criticism over diversity within AEW by Big Swole

AEW President Tony Khan is under criticism following his response to comments made by Big Swole regarding diversity within the promotion.

Speaking on her Swole World podcast, the former AEW talent expanded on her departure from the company recently after the expiration of her deal (Transcribed by Jeremy Lambert at Fightful.com):

I explained to TK (Tony Khan) that I didn’t want to re-sign because my peace was being disrupted. If anybody knows me or knows myself, if anything is disrupting your peace, it’s time to let it go. It might be scared or be hard, but it’s time to let it go. When Kenny said that, it was the circle coming to an end because Kenny and I would bump heads sometimes throughout my time in AEW. To end it on that note felt good. It felt wonderful to end it at a place where, we didn’t see eye-to-eye, but we were there.

Regarding the subject of diversity within AEW, Swole provided the following opinion about the structure of the company:

I do not beat around the bush when it comes to diversity and my people. There is no representation, truly, and when there is, it does not come across in the black community as genuine. At all. I don’t know why everybody is so afraid to accept it or say it, but it’s not a good look. What happens is, you have this wonderful company that treats people like family, but there is nobody that looks like me that is represented at the top and in the room with them. They are not helping to necessarily influence decisions, but to explain why certain slang and certain word shouldn’t be said. There is no one else who can explain our culture and experience except for us.

I believe that the company is making better strides than before, but a couple of things need to be fixed. You have to be able to call people out because not everything is perfect. I hope they listen to this with an open heart and not just, ‘Ah, she’s just saying this because of XYZ.’ I genuinely want them to succeed. I love this art form. I love wrestling and I want it to succeed and I want the people in it to succeed if they are genuine people. I want WWE to succeed. I want wrestling to flourish and I don’t want it to be a long-forgotten, Tartarian sport where ‘in the old days, we used to wrestle,’ and it’s folklore. I want nothing but the best, but I also want the change and application to happen. With promises you made to be diverse, I want to see that. Not just with black people. I would love to see a Latino or Hispanic or more Asians. I feel like Asians and Indians do not get the love. They just don’t. It’s such a big gap. I hate the fact that I turn on the TV and it’s the same stuff over and over again. Hopefully, they get the message. Me leaving, honestly, was not bad. There is no bad blood between TK and I. I just don’t like my peace being disrupted. I didn’t like certain things and other things that I will take to my grave. The diversity. That’s what matters.

Tony Khan issued a response on Friday evening by quote tweeting an article by Fightful recapping the comments by Big Swole.

The top 2 @AEW execs are brown (me & Megha)!! Jade, Bowens, Caster, Dante, Nyla, Isiah & Marq Quen all won on tv this month. The TBS Title Tournament has been very diverse. I let Swole’s contract expire as I felt her wrestling wasn’t good enough. #AEWRampage Street Fight TONIGHT! https://t.co/NprF6I7D6G

— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) January 1, 2022

The response to Khan’s tweet has been a contentious issue with some believing Big Swole is owed an apology while others within AEW have publicly defended Khan for the strides made in the company.

The knock against Big Swole’s wrestling ability upset many people with attention drawn to comments Khan made in the past where he praised her as a “great wrestler” while she worked for the company.

The subject of diversity within AEW has been a source of criticism for onlookers with this exchange reopening the subject.

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Yup. Great summary John. I think in the end he should’ve just responded to this better. I think they are doing a better job with diversity, but yet he comes across as a bit of a hot tempered moron here and not a well polished executive.

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This is a perfect example of the issues I’ve always had with Tony khan, he comes off like a child on Twitter. Whether it’s arguing with fans over the demo, criticizing WWE, or now putting down former talent.

I don’t think Khan is a racist, but lack of diversity has been an issue in AEW since the beginning, especially in the mens singles division which pretty much revolves around white guys. Fixing this will take time and I’m sure he will, but gaslighting a former talent on Twitter is the dumbest thing he could have done.

Hopefully he learns from this and things improve.

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I think its Horrible Tony Khan should show a Respect to all his Workers AEW needs a new President that respect all his workers He should Leave Social Media Alone If your running a Company You should be worry about your Business and show all the Respect for all your workers I hope and Pray that He dont end up like Vince Mcmahon

While some of your points are valid for sure, AEW doesn’t need to replace him. Khan is a very good booker, and has done great thing with AEW. He just needs to shut the F up on Twitter/interviews. If he does that, he will be fine.

I do have faith that the company will begin to use POC in more prominent roles as the company evolves. Ultimately this is the result of a group of white guys starting a wrestling promotion and placing themselves in the main event scene. Then when you add the fact that all the main event legends/WWE guys they have been able to recruit have all been white as well (Mox, Jericho, Punk, Bryan etc.) it is what it is.

The key is that they are able to build new stars who are POC and and book them in a way where they get over and are propelled into the main event, then in a few years this type of conversation will be a thing of the past. I think the reason why this pissed off Khan so much is because he isnt a racist guy, but there are so many things he could have said outside of what he said.

I also think part of this issue is that any talent that left WWE over the past few years (usually white guys) he scooped up as an FU to WWE. The result, a roster filled with white guys. I said this in a thread months ago, if you sign every white free agent from WWE, how are POC going to thrive.

Except, that isn’t what happened at all. Those guys were not in the main event scene until long after they should have been. Most people would have said Kenny and Hangman should not have been in the tag division. Most people would have said the Bucks should have been champs sooner. Most people would have done more with Cody.

Let’s not rewrite history here, because we’re too scared to say that the black performers that they do have, are either a long ways away from being main event players or just not good enough.

Private Party and The Acclaimed? Right where they should be. Neither team is great.

Dante Martin? Great future. I think they’ve done a hell of a job with his brother out. He’s ahead of where he should be and just main evented Winter is Coming. He’s in the right spot.

Powerhouse Hobbs? He’s alright. He’s a solid upper midcard guy that hasn’t shown that he deserves to be higher than he is yet.

Jade Cargill? Way ahead of where she should be. I like her and she has huge potential, but she is very green still.

Lio Rush? Perfect role for him. He has shown that he is stable enough to be trusted with a bigger role.

Jay Lethal? I’m not sure what he is doing. He is one guy that is lost in the shuffle for sure, but he’s also never going to be and shouldn’t be a main event guy. TNT title challenger is a good role.

Scorpio Sky? Another guy who is in the perfect role. He’s good as a tag or TNT challenger.

Who else is there? Anyone they could bring in is not at that level either. Keith Lee is overrated. Shane Taylor I like, but I don’t see him ever being a consistent main event guy. Jonathan Gresham has huge potential, but he’ll have a lot to prove moving up to the big leagues.

The only guy out of everyone I mentioned that I see star potential in, is Shane Strickland. If they strapped the rocket to him, he could be a huge star I think.

I mean technically Tony is a person of color and a minority group in America and he started the company. But don’t let technical facts get in the way of narrative.

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Is this directed at me? If so I’d like to respond. If no, then nevermind.

TK isn’t racist. I’m not sure his experience growing up as the son of a millionaire is representative of minorities in general (he’s also half a minority I think) but he’s not racist I don’t think either. He just tweets without thinking

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I think you’re taking me out of context here, also you quoted half of what I said which makes my narrative seem to be different then what it was, above is the full quote with the bold being what you left out.

Based on my full quote, I am saying that their main event scene has revolved around Omega, Page, TYB, Cody, Mox, Jericho, Bryan, and Punk. They are the people the company has been built around, I dont think you can dispute that. I am not re-writing anything here.

I never said that Khan was racist (I literally said the opposite), and I never said that he overlooked any particular wrestlers. I am saying that based on the wrestlers he chose to build the company around, of course it was going to lead to a lack of diversity in the main event scene. I’m not even saying it was a bad decision, that core is what led AEW to the massive success that they have had given they were the hottest Free Agents at the Time. My entire point was that the lack of diversity was an unfortunete byproduct of that fact. It is what it is.

I also said:

As long as Khan gives POC a chance moving forward then I have no problem with him as a booker. My issue is that he is an ass on Twitter. What he said was shitty on many levels. He comes off as if he’s gaslighting a black wrestler for feeling there is a lack of diversity, and he comes off mean to be blunt. He’s a billionaire, he doesn’t need to take shots like that. I think normally fans love when he’s a dick on Twitter because its usually directed at WWE, but at the end of the day, being a dick is being a dick and he needs to stop on social media.

I’m sorry, but I’m sick of fans blindly defending Khan’s words (I dont mean you, you did say his words were dumb) because they are AEW fans. I’ve always said that my biggest problem with the IWC is that the fans tend to blindly defend their favorite promotions while railing into the promotions they dont like. AEW fans and WWE fans are guilty of this, and I just hope fans wake up and call him out for these stupid comments. Hopefully he learns from this.

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It was the quote above saying white guys started the company. It wasn’t meant to be combative but I understand the broader point about the first group of hired wrestlers. It’s just who exactly are you referring to in terms of starting the company because I think TK started it and has a diverse team and then on the EVP side they all started same time with Brandi so not exactly all white guys. Point about the main even scene is true and it has a lot to do with who historically has been main event. Not a ton of main event ready POC available in 2019 and the ones avail now let’s see what happens. Broadly speaking, a TV product cannot be based in affirmative action. An audience has a say in choosing to watch and talent have an opportunity to get over.

This is why making things about race alone is stupid. I think a lot of the developmental projects to groom up and coming stars have been Black performers (Jade Velvet, Acclaimed, Dante, Johnson and Moriarty). If by the end of 22 any of these performers achieve championship level or are paired with established headliners regularly I think that’s great progress. We should monitor and hold AEW accountable to achieving that progress but the want it forced would not be authentic or good business. Progress needs to be achieved and earned by talent and fans. I really hope what appears to be an investment in the next generation of talent pays off because I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.

Did you read my post right above your last post? My comment was taken out of context and I explained why. I get it looks like I’m calling him racist if you cut 4 lines out of a 3 paragraph post. Please read that post, and if it doesn’t clear it up I’ll respond to your post directly. I think we’re more on the same page then you realize.

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Oh I agree we probably aren’t far off. I doubt any of us are. I bet we’d agree with 90% of our respective points that don’t clearly overlap. Goes for everyone discussing it here. And probably TK and Swole too if both answering entirely honest and without trying to spin.

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