WWE fans around the world were shocked to learn that former WWE Champion Roman Reigns (real name: Joe Anoa'i) was suspended for thirty days under the WWE's Wellness Policy.

The news ran rampant over every major news outlet, prompting fans to speculate whether Reigns had been taking performance enhancing drugs, and the status of the main event of the next special event Battleground, where he is scheduled to compete in the WWE Championship match just four days after his suspension would be over. As of press time, Reigns is still slated to compete in the match.

However, fans were shocked to see that Reigns's suspension was to be addressed openly on Monday Night Raw, when one of Reigns's upcoming opponents, Seth Rollins (real name Colby Lopez) addressed the suspension on live television, with Stephanie McMahon (WWE's Chief Brand Officer) calling it embarrassing. The conversation suddenly shifted from hilarious memes and rewriting the lyrics of the AfroMan hit song "Because I Got High," to WWE's deliberate embarrassing of Reigns, and whether or not Rollins had the right to say anything, seeing as he once was involved in an embarrassing scandal. In 2015, nude photographs of Rollins and a former girlfriend, Zahra Schrieber, were leaked on social media by Rollins's former fiancee Leighla Schultz after learning of Rollins and Schrieber's affair. The incident was never mentioned on WWE TV and Rollins apologized for the incident. Some fans claimed that Rollins's photo scandal was worse than Reigns's drug suspension and he should have been fired. They called WWE irresponsible for using Rollins to openly discuss the scandal, claiming that his behaviour was far worse and he was never punished.

This line of thinking is completely inaccurate.

Whether you are a fan of Roman Reigns or you aren't, he took responsibility for his actions and has accepted his suspension. WWE's Wellness Policy covers a litany of substances, so Reigns's suspension could be for something as minor as taking a pre-workout with a banned stimulant. It could be for PED's, and WWE has wisely not disclosed what Reigns was caught with and did the right thing by suspending him. WWE showed that their zero tolerance is actually zero tolerance, as Reigns was the WWE champion at the time he failed his drug test and the face of the company. Reigns did not fulfill the terms of his contract and should WWE choose not to keep him at the main event level until he rebuilds that trust with the McMahon family and the fans, that is their prerogative. 

Seth Rollins is a villainous character (despite being mostly cheered by the WWE fans). His job is to say things to embarrass the hero. So, he called out Roman Reigns on his suspension, using a script WWE gave him. However, the incident that involved Rollins and Schrieber was not something that he did. Leighla Schultz leaked the photos to humiliate a man that broke her heart. While we've all been jilted by a former lover, this kind of behaviour is called "revenge porn" and is a crime in 27 states as well as many countries (it is not a crime in Iowa, where Rollins and Schultz reside). This sort of thing is akin to sexual assault. When the site 4chan released nude photos of various celebrities, including Jennifer Lawerence, she stated later it was a gross violation of her privacy, as those photos were meant for her then partner Nicholas Hoult.  Seth Rollins was the victim of a crime, not someone who did not do his due diligence to ensure that he was meeting the terms of his contract. While yes, Colby Lopez was wrong to start a relationship with another woman while still engaged, adultery is not a crime. It's wrong and disgusting and his former fiancee had every right to be hurt and angry that the relationship she believed was going to be forever was torn apart by an affair. But Colby Lopez's personal life shouldn't impact the character of Seth Rollins. This was a private matter that was made public and while we can all empathize with Schultz, she was in the wrong. Colby Lopez was the victim of a crime, not someone who violated his contract.

While Roman Reigns fans have every right to be upset by the suspension and even WWE's choice to make this suspension television fodder (performers who are suspended are generally written out due to  "injury"), trying to somehow infer that the 2015 Rollins nude photos was anything but a crime is silly. Blaming Rollins for the leak is also laughable. His personal and private photos were stolen from his email account and his Instagram was hacked with the photos stolen and released without consent. That is a crime. Colby Lopez was the victim of a crime and to blame him for that crime would be like telling someone they deserved to have their home robbed because they bought a TV. Fans also need to remember that Seth Rollins is a character on a TV show and he is simply reading the script that his employers handed him. If you feel second hand embarrassment for Joe Anoa'i and his family, then direct your anger where it belongs; on the McMahon family, who wrote the lines for him to say.

In the end, you cannot compare the two. While both made poor choices (one to have an affair, one to take a banned substance), the scandals are not the same. One was a victim of a sexually based crime and one willfully put a substance in his body that his employers do not allow. In the end, Roman Reigns will return and after some time, if he demonstrates good behaviour and is not suspended again, he'll once again be "The Guy." But trying to damage the career of other WWE Superstars to defend him won't make that happen any faster.

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Published by Mary-Helen Clark