In the aftermath of the highly unfortunate situation surrounding leaked private photos and videos of WWE superstars Paige and Xavier Woods, some are pointing to the company’s so-called “morality clause” in speculating about how this may be handled. So what is the “morality clause,” exactly, and what does it mean for Paige and Xavier Woods?
When WWE fans refer to the “morality clause” or the “morals clause,” they’re talking about Section 9.13(a) of the WWE booking contract. It’s not officially referred to as a morality clause in in the contract, although the WWE website points to this section as being “commonly known as the ‘morals clause.’”
Section 9.13(a) of the contract states that all WWE wrestlers must act at all times “with due regard to public morals and conventions” and that if the wrestler does anything “that is or shall be an offense or violation involving moral turpitude,” or if the wrestler does anything to bring them into “public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule” or damage their reputation, the company is within its right to fire the employee.
Here is the so-called “morality clause” in its entirety:
WRESTLER shall act at all times with due regard to public morals and conventions during the Term of this Agreement. If WRESTLER shall have committed or shall commit any act or do anything that is or shall be an offense or violation involving moral turpitude under Federal, state or local laws, or which brings WRESTLER into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which insults or offends the community or any employee, agent or affiliate of PROMOTER or which injures WRESTLER’s reputation in PROMOTER’s sole judgment, or diminishes the value of WRESTLER’s professional wrestling services to the public or PROMOTER, then at the time of any such act, or any time after PROMOTER learns of any such act, PROMOTER shall have the right to fine WRESTLER in an amount to be determined by PROMOTER; and PROMOTER shall have the right to immediately suspend WRESTLER and/or terminate this Agreement pursuant to Section 12.
So does having private, sexually-explicit photos stolen and posted online meet this standard? Well, in 2015, Seth Rollins had some nude selfies posted online without his consent, and that was not considered a breach of the morality clause. Not only was Rollins not fired, but he was not disciplined in any way, and the WWE never officially responded to the invasion of privacy. Rollins simply tweeted, “I would like to apologize to all the WWE fans and my family and friends for private photographs that were distributed without my consent,” and that was the end of it.
In 2015, however, the WWE terminated its contract with Hulk Hogan after a tape leaked in which he goes off on a racist tirade and expresses displeasure with his daughter dating a black man. Hogan’s lawyer said that he resigned and was not fired. Presumably, the release of this tape would qualify as an incident that brings a wrestler into public contempt or scandal and would therefore violate the morality clause.
How might the WWE approach the Paige leak, then? That’s a difficult question to answer because this is a bit different than the Seth Rollins photo leak. After all, one of the pictures shows Paige using the NXT Women’s Championship in a sex act, therefore involving the company’s brand and logo in the situation in a way that Seth Rollins did not. Xavier Woods’ circumstances, however, are a bit more in line with that of Seth Rollins.
It also does not help that Paige has already been in hot water with the WWE multiple times. In 2016, she was suspended twice for violating the company’s wellness policy. And after her second suspension, she and her family made public comments suggesting that the WWE was not treating her fairly and was lying when they said that she tested positive for an illegal substance. She has also shown up at rival promotions with her boyfriend, former WWE superstar Alberto Del Rio.
In a recent edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer states that the WWE probably would have fired Paige if she was the only one involved in the scandal, as she has proven to be a liability. However, he notes that the company is in a difficult situation and that Paige may be somewhat protected because The Rock is currently making a movie about her and her parents called Fighting With My Family.
Wrestling Observer Radio’s Bryan Alvarez, however, contends that both Paige and Xavier Woods will be fine, and he speculates that the fact that the images and videos were stolen and were not posted online with their consent means that this will not constitute a violation of the morality clause.
Ex-WWE writer Brian Maxwell Mann recently stated on Twitter that Paige should not be punished and that a precedent was set with how the company handled the Seth Rollins leak. He also speculated that the extent of the WWE’s reaction may be keeping The New Day backstage for one episode of Raw.