(TW: sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape)
On Thursday morning, Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann of the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Vince McMahon, WWE, and former WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis were being sued by a former employee, Janel Grant. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Connecticut for charges that include civil battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and violation of the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act (TVPA).
Grant was employed with WWE beginning in 2019 as an "administrator-coordinator" in the legal department, a position that McMahon created for her. In a 67-page lawsuit, Grant details how McMahon used her tragedies (the loss of her parents along with the family home to bankruptcy) to befriend her, offer her a job, and then coerce her into sex acts in order to keep her job.
She was also sexually abused by Laurinaitis when he was her boss. Grant had been transferred to his department in talent relations. Allegedly on McMahon's orders, she was to serve herself as "breakfast" to Laurinaitis before she reported to work. Grant also alleges threesomes with the men. WSJ reports that 'McMahon and Laurinaitis forced themselves on her and took turns restraining her for the other, while saying “No means yes” and “Take it, (expletive).”' She had previously been forced into a threesome with McMahon and his physical therapist, according to the lawsuit.
McMahon would later direct her to make sexual content for a former UFC Champion and WWE Superstar he was trying to re-sign. The person who fits this description is Brock Lesnar and the WSJ reached out to him for comment but did not receive a response. McMahon would tell her that she was part of the deal when Lesnar did re-sign. Grant details how McMahon tried to traffick her to Lesnar and texted her “That part of the deal was (expletive) U.”
Early on, McMahon told Grant that he had powerful lawyers to get rid of problems or people that became problems. She took that as a threat to do everything he asked or she'd face his wrath and his powerful legal counsel. This allowed McMahon to reportedly share the nude photos and videos that she sent to him with other men.
In January 2022, McMahon's wife, Linda, discovered their relationship. He allegedly forced Grant to sign an NDA eight days later. She also left WWE. McMahon only paid one of the agreed payments. Following the signing of the NDA, McMahon allegedly forced Grant to perform oral sex on him. In March 2022, McMahon directed Grant to continue sending photos and to meet with the WWE Superstar (allegedly Lesnar). The meeting ended up not happening.
The lawsuit states that the NDA is invalid under state and federal law.
On Thursday afternoon, a TKO spokesperson made it clear that McMahon "does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE." The spokesperson also stated "While this matter predates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”
McMahon released a statement via his spokesperson to Wrestling News Co. that read "This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth. He will vigorously defend himself."
McMahon is a 'liability'
Last August during their Q2 Financial Earnings call, WWE announced that McMahon had been served with a federal grand jury subpoena, and a search warrant had been executed the previous July. A statement from the SEC filing at the time said
"The SEC filing also states “As previously disclosed on June 17, 2022, a Special Committee of the Board of Directors was formed on June 15, 2022 to investigate allegations of misconduct by Vince McMahon. As previously disclosed, the Special Committee investigation was completed during the fourth quarter of 2022. However, related government investigations remain ongoing."- SEC
During the Q3 Financial Earnings call, TKO listed McMahon as a liability and called him a risk factor. In an SEC filing, TKO said McMahon "could have adverse financial and operational impacts on our business… [and] could expose us to negative publicity and/or have other adverse financial and operational impacts on our business. His membership also may result in additional scrutiny or otherwise exacerbate the other risks described herein. Any of these outcomes could directly or indirectly have adverse financial and operational impacts on our business.”
Accountability is necessary
After reading the full lawsuit, the depravity of Vince McMahon cannot be understated. While we have the details of this case, this isn't new behavior for him. Former WWE referee, Rita Chatterton, has said that McMahon raped her in the '80s. The WWE formed a special board to investigate multiple women who have NDAs with McMahon.
TKO must part ways with him immediately if a full investigation happens and these allegations are true. From a business standpoint, he has proven time and time again that he is a risk and liability. On a moral level, McMahon shouldn't be employed by anyone if again, these allegations are true. He has enough money to never work again. He's close to 80 years old. WWE and the wrestling world have grown past the need for him in any capacity.
That may prove to be difficult as Brandon Thurston points out. TKO may not be able to force McMahon out due to this caveat. "7.2 Executive Chair. Notwithstanding Section 7.1(b), Vincent K. McMahon shall serve as the Executive Chair of the Board (the “Executive Chair”) until the earliest of his death, resignation or Incapacitation. Any vacancy of the Executive Chair (which, if Mr. McMahon is the initial Executive Chair, shall initially only occur upon the death, resignation, or Incapacity of Mr. McMahon) shall be filled by the Board by the affirmative vote of a majority of the Directors."
There should also be accountability for those who were complicit. Laurinaitis may be gone, but there are allegedly 12 "tech" people who were aware of some sort of relationship with Grant. There are also the four "corporate WWE officers" who were either aware of or suspected of a sexual relationship. None of them stepped in to stop it. If they're still employed by WWE, they need to be let go no matter who they are or what position they hold. There is no need to keep complicit people employed.
Lesnar has been rumored to be returning to WWE television soon with the Royal Rumble being a possibility. On Thursday night, Fightful Select reported that "in light of Lesnar's implied inclusion in the Vince McMahon lawsuit, that may change."
He should not be on WWE programming until a full investigation has occurred. At the very least, cancel any pending plans and leave him off television until the legal matters are resolved.
WWE needs to let their fans know this behavior cannot and will not stand. They must distance themselves from everyone involved.
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic and dating violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE. The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 1-888-373-7888. The National Sexual Assualt Hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).