First, go read Stephen Totilo's excellent reflection on Chris Benoit as a playable character in WWE 2K15. Then, pop back on over.
Chris Benoit was one of my favorite wrestlers, but when it comes to talking about his legacy as a wrestler, debating if he should go into the Hall of Fame, etc., I can't help but think of all the times I'm disgusted by mainstream sports fans and commentators dropping some variation of the line "all I care about is what he does on the field" when their favorite athlete commits rape, murder, domestic abuse or some other heinous act.
No, no, no, no. You can't do that. You can't excuse or ignore somebody's horrific behavior and the impact it has on other people simply because they're really good at That Thing You Like. Does their criminal actions make then any less talented at their skill or talent? No, of course not. But it does tarnish their reputation as a person. It does make you question what lines they crossed to develop that skill or talent. By shrugging it off and saying they should still be allowed to perform and get respect for their performance means that you're willing to excuse what they did because of their status. That's unacceptable in a polite and progressive society.
I've heard it say before that professional athletes aren't paid to be role models. Fair enough, but when knowingly accept a job where you are constantly on public display you accept all the baggage that comes with it; including having fans look to you as a positive moral compass. Want to do horrible things and get away with them, at least for a while? Work for minimum wage in the service industry. Nobody will look twice at you.
All this is to say that, even though I was a huge Chris Benoit fan back in the day, I don't think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I'm okay with WWE basically pretending he doesn't exist. They should be logical and consistent in their application, however.
Saying "we're deleting Hitler too" doesn't sit well with me. By defending deleting Benoit's avatar from the game by saying, "Hey look guys, we're also deleting the guy who was responsible for the worst genocides in history" is pretty much equating the two and thus, their actions. What Benoit did was horrible, but to imply that he is equally deplorable to Hitler? No. Granted, if they're just lumping every criminal authority under "inappropriate content," that's another thing all together—but again, make sure you're really deleting ALL of them.
WWE can't have it both ways. They can't admit that the stage Benoit and the real Benoit were two separate entities on one platform and try to conflate the two on another. Either completely edit him out of their recorded history or make certain concessions when necessary. Of course, the cynic in me wants to say that WWE elected to include Benoit's appearances on their network because by not doing so, they would be cutting out a lot of content, and thus would possibly lose customers. The game is going to sell regardless.
Really, there's no best way to handle this situation, of acknowledging Benoit's admirable accomplishments while admonishing his horrible deeds. It is best to err on the side of respect for those wronged, and I would say that his late wife and son—and the family and friends that don't want to see their murderer lauded as a hero and legend, even in a fictional setting—were the ones wronged here.
My name is Brandon. I used to watch my aunt and my mom play Frogger while I was a baby, and I've been a gamer ever since. My paying job is as a librarian. I currently write Library Journal's "Games, Gamers, and Gaming" column so that librarians all over the nation are informed about games and gaming culture. I'm on Twitter and Steam as level250geek, so feel free to look me up.