When WWE wrestlers stop beating each other with kendo sticks, plowing each other through tables or delivering chair shots to the back, they take a moment to deliver a simple, if paradoxical, message.
Don't be a bully.
Fresh off the company's Royal Rumble event, the WWE announced Monday a multiyear national partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The new partnership focuses on bullying prevention efforts around Be a STAR, WWE's anti-bullying initiative, and its mission to encourage young people to treat each other with respect through education and grassroots initiatives.
"This is not entertainment, this is real life," WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon said. "We're dealing with a real situation that needs to be addressed and it's going to take all of us to change it and put an end to bullying."
WWE and BGCA hosted Be a STAR anti-bullying with McMahon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America Vice President of Marketing Frank Sanchez and WWE stars Monday at the Hank Kline Boys and Girls Club in Miami.
"It's at these rallies where the superstars show their humanity," Sanchez said. "They share with these kids how at one point they were just one of them, and many of them had been bullied as young people."
Since 2011, WWE has held more than 100 anti-bullying rallies and Be a STAR's resources and programs have reached more than 300,000 children globally. WWE also will donate money to support BGCA and the 4,500 clubs across the United States.
WWE's anti-bullying program provides information resources for kids, parents and educators, all of whom may be primed to intervene when a bully strikes, but may not always know the best way to take action.
WWE stars try to make the point to young kids that the fighting and trash-talking in the ring is entertainment — thus, World Wrestling Entertainment — and should not be emulated in classrooms and playgrounds.
"The question comes up all the time, well, we saw such-and-such beat up guys, do they not really like each other," wrestler Titus O'Neil said. "I tell them that we're playing characters on television much like movie stars play characters in movies. But in real life, we really get along like brothers and sisters and we're family."
WWE supports a variety of social causes, including Susan G. Komen and Make-A-Wish. WWE great John Cena was the first celebrity to grant 500 wishes in Make-A-Wish Foundation history.
Stephanie McMahon speaks at rallies and encourages kids in the program, which starts at elementary school, to learn to show tolerance and respect. McMahon, though, is perhaps WWE's baddest "bad guy" on screen, often slapping around wrestlers and announcers without ever receiving her comeuppance. She tells the kids, who may be eager to act like their idols, that how she acts on "Raw" and other programming is all just part of the show.
"I address it immediately that my character portrays a bully," she said. "But that's my character. And we're utilizing stories to tell messages. In reality, these are things that are happening and we need to give you the tools that you need to stand up in real life against these issues."