The UPN network is coming under fire after airing an episode of WWE SmackDown! that depicted what was apparently a terrorist-themed wrestling battle. The sketch aired last Thursday, July 7--the same day as the tragic and fatal attacks on London's public transportation system.
The SmackDown! episode in question featured an Arab-American wrestler named Daivari being vanquished by a character known as The Undertaker. After the fight, another Arab wrestler knelt in simulated prayer while five masked men emerged to choke The Undertaker into unconsciousness. The five then fell to their knees as Hassan hoisted The Undertaker's head into a position similar to that of a beheading victim. Daivari's unconscious body was carried out over the heads of the masked group, calling to mind a funeral for a suicide bomber.
The sketch was completely edited out of the U.K. edition of SmackDown!, and disclaimers alerted US viewers to the possible offensive content.
When questioned about the nature of the terrorist sketch, executive producer Kevin Dunn asserted that "we try and be sensitive with everything we portray, but there's got to be protagonists and antagonists on our TV shows. We just happen to reflect the politics of the world sometimes--especially with these Arab-American characters."
Dunn encouraged viewers to remember that the WWE is "firmly in the entertainment business" and that the content of SmackDown! should not be taken seriously.