The WWE has reinstated Hulk Hogan into its Hall of Fame, three years after severing ties with him in response to a racist rant captured as part of the infamous sex tape for which the former wrestler sued the website Gawker, leading to a long court battle that effectively bankrupted the site and raised questions about press freedom.
In a brief statement announcing the decision on Sunday, the organization explained that it felt that Hogan’s “numerous public apologies” and volunteer work were sufficient criteria for reinstating him.
“This second chance follows Hogan’s numerous public apologies and volunteering to work with young people, where he is helping them learn from his mistake,” the statement reads. “These efforts led to a recent induction into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame.”
A spokesman for the WWE declined to comment to further explain the decision.
In 2015, following a recording of Hogan repeatedly using the n-word — part of the same sex tape that was the subject of the Gawker lawsuit — the organization quickly distanced itself from Hogan, scrubbing mentions of him from the WWE website.
Hogan sued Gawker after the site published an excerpt of the sex tape in 2012, which it argued was newsworthy and “good journalism.” Hogan claimed that the publication of the recording violated his privacy and caused personal stress.
Silicon Valley investor and conservative donor Peter Thiel secretly funded Hogan’s lawsuit, which resulted in $140 million in damages. The costly and protracted legal battle effectively forced Gawker into bankruptcy, and in 2016, it settled the lawsuit.
Under the settlement agreement, Hogan received $31 million, and the site was forced to remove several articles critical of him, raising questions about press freedom and corporate power suppressing media organizations.