By TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. has reinstated Hulk Hogan to its Hall of Fame, three years after he was found to have used racial slurs in a conversation caught on a sex tape.
The Connecticut-based company made the announcement in a statement Sunday.
“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 organization wrote.
Hogan told his 2.2 million followers on Twitter: “I’ve been praying for this day and I finally feel like I made it back home. Only Love 4 the #WWEUNIVERSE brother,” he wrote.
The 64-year-old Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, apologized in 2015 for using “offensive language” in a conversation many years before that. On the recording, he was caught talking about his daughter sleeping with a black man and used the “N” word.
“It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologize for having done it,” Hogan said at the time.
The comments came to light in a joint report from RadarOnline.com and The National Enquirer, which said Hogan had used racial slurs in a conversation caught on a sex video that was the subject of an invasion of privacy lawsuit.
Hogan, perhaps the biggest star in WWE’s five-decade history, was the main draw for the first WrestleMania in 1985 and was a fixture for years in its signature event, facing everyone from Andre The Giant and Randy Savage to The Rock and even company chairman Vince McMahon. He won six WWE championships and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 by Sylvester Stallone.
But he was able to transcend his “Hulkamania” fan base to become a celebrity outside the wrestling world, appearing in numerous movies and television shows, including a reality show about his life on VH1, “Hogan Knows Best.”
In 2016, a Florida jury awarded $140 million to Hogan in a privacy case revolving around the sex tape, which was posted on Gawker.com. The site posted a video of Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife. Gawker argued that its footage was newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment.
Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, raising concerns about the power of the wealthy against the media. Only after Hogan won the jury verdict did Thiel’s role come to light.
Gawker settled with Hulk Hogan for $31 million, ending a years-long fight that led to the media company’s bankruptcy, the shutdown of Gawker.com and the sale of Gawker’s other sites to Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.