The flag slips through the curtain before the man, revealing a hint of what’s to come. It’s red, white and black with an Iron Cross, a symbol weaponized by Nazi Germany. Pounding rock music fills the tiny venue. And then he steps into the spotlight, waving the flag and brandishing a Nazi salute.
“Sieg heil!” he screams to the crowd. Some fans offer support for the professional wrestler, meeting his appearance with Nazi salutes of their own. Before entering the ring, he points approvingly to a little kid holding a sign that reads: BLITZKRIEG RULES. “Trump’s America,” another fan declares.
Kevin Bean, 36, works as a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher in the Spring-Ford Area School District. He also has a side hustle. He is Blitzkrieg, a heel (bad guy) wrestler, who, until recently, performed mostly out of the public eye for the small-time World Wide Wrestling Alliance (WWWA). But a video of Blitzkrieg posted to Twitter on July 18 has attracted attention on social and media and sparked outrage.
Ryan Satin, who runs ProWrestlingSheet.com, posted Bean’s entrance from a June 23 show in Quakertown, according to the description of a since-deleted YouTube video of the match.
“This video makes me sick,” Satin wrote. “Watching the guy do Nazi salutes on his way to the ring while children in the crowd cheer him on like a good guy is terrifying.”
Bean could not be reached for comment.
His employer released a statement about Bean.
“Spring-Ford Area School District was made aware of a video featuring an employee, outside of the school setting, participating in an amateur wrestling event. Once administrators were made aware of the video they acted immediately to conduct an ongoing internal investigation,” district spokesperson Erin Crew wrote. “The actions portrayed in this video do not represent the core values of the school district. As an educational organization, we pride ourselves in providing a safe and nurturing learning environment.”
In an interview with TheBlast.com, Dino Sanna, owner of WWWA, championed Bean as a “good guy and not a hateful person,” adding that he has close ties to his local church and his gimmick shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Sanna noted that some of some of the children in the crowd were Bean’s students.
“I want to make this very clear: It is unfathomable and absolutely unacceptable to me that the school district has only responded to this point with the lame assurance that they are investigating the issue,” said Kenny Herzog, who covers professional wrestling and is a regular contributor to TheRinger.com. “I’m not sure what there is to investigate.”
Professional wrestling borrowing from the global zeitgeist to paint foreigners as villains is hardly a novel concept. In the 1980s, WWE wrestler The Iron Sheik played on Americans’ fears of the Middle East by channeling his Iranian roots. He was perhaps the most hated villain of his generation, providing the perfect foe for American hero Hulk Hogan.
But some, including Herzog, think Bean’s portrayal of a Nazi sympathizer takes things too far.
“In a moment in time when people are worried about this kind of activity being resurgent and being enabled by what seems to be permissive leadership at the highest levels of government, yeah, it’s incredibly terrifying,” Herzog said.
Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased nearly 60 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League, marking the biggest jump since the organization started tracking such information about 40 years ago.
That reality came into the national spotlight in August 2017 when neo-Nazis protested the removal of a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Va., and chanted “The Jews will not replace us.” They were met by counterprotestors, and President Donald Trump blamed “both sides” for the violent nature of the protest, during which one counter-protester was run over and killed by a white supremacist operating a motor vehicle.
The Philadelphia chapter of the Anti-Defamation League denounced Bean and the WWWA on Twitter.
We welcome @SpringFordASD’s statement rejecting this conduct as not representative of “the core values of the school district,” and would encourage the incorporation of age-appropriate Holocaust & anti-bias education in the classroom. 3/4
— ADL Philadelphia (@ADLPhiladelphia) July 25, 2018
Some Twitter users defended Bean, who has a 4.96/5 rating on RateMyTeachers.com.
“Seriously?? It’s a gimmick. A bad guy is a bad guy. This screams America and wrestling to me!,” wrote @RowdyJonnyPiper.
“He is a wonderful man, and family man and teacher! So this is a show, extra money because teachers get paid crap!,” wrote @mogf1233.
Sanna could not be reached for comment, but on July 26 he posted an advertisement for the WWWA’s July 28 show in Quakertown to his personal Facebook page. It features seven wrestlers staring menacingly ahead. Blitzkrieg is not pictured.