Photo: wwe.com

It all started with a single tweet, at least from where I sat. A selfie—I use the word deliberately—of Roman Reigns. It had been taken in a bathroom mirror; his right hand held the phone, while he twisted his shirt up and out of the way with his left, revealing his chest and stomach. He didn’t meet his own eyes in the photo, instead looking down and away.

Immediate reactions were ecstatic; in recent years, Roman doesn’t tend to allow himself to be seen shirtless. Even pictures when he appears so backstage, he keeps his stomach carefully covered. Presented with something unexpected, the retweets and likes started, as well as reblogs and likes on Tumblr, and apparently the same on Instagram.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before reason hit. No, this wasn’t something we’d usually see from Roman. It didn’t come from his Twitter account, which is the only place he posts personally (Facebook is apparently handled by someone in WWE, and he doesn’t have an Instagram). Where, then, did it come from? The photo was watermarked with a NSFW Tumblr account (interestingly enough, most pictures on that site are not). Had Roman’s phone been hacked? Was this sent to someone else? Had they released it? Did he know?

The answer to that question came soon enough, as Roman liked a tweet that stated, “There’s some pic going around that’s more than likely personal property of @WWERomanReigns. The man deserves to be respected as a husband, father & fellow human being. If you uploaded it but really care about him, take it down ASAP.”  I don’t accept the narrative that because Roman hasn’t said anything, he’s all right with this. He may be choosing to say nothing in order to keep it from blowing up, or the company may have advised him to stay quiet for the time being. Addressing these things often provokes backlash, and Roman is already a polarising figure. Even among his fans, a debate is raging as to whether or not the picture should be shared; some argue that because it’s already “out there”, it doesn’t matter. Still others have offered unkind speculation. Some, noting the tag that indicates this is one in a series, are waiting for further pictures to be released; there are those are hoping that these will be nudes. If this is the response from his “fans”, one can imagine how his detractors will react.

I have it from a reputable source that this picture was posted by a former WWE employee [name redacted], and was one of a series of progression pictures. This feels the most likely to me, as there’s nothing flirtatious about the picture, and Roman doesn’t even seem to be particularly happy taking it—again, that gaze down and away. If this is true, this is a disgusting violation of trust. I can’t claim to know their motivation: if they were paid, if it’s some form of revenge, if they’re trying to cast rumours of scandal, if they’re trying to drive traffic to that Tumblr, or something else. Unless they talk, there’s no way to know. Honestly, the why of the thing does not matter.

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I’ve been gratified to see that many of the people who posted the photo have since taken it down, and people are starting to speak out against its distribution.  I do know that it’s doubtful we’ll be able to eradicate the picture entirely, but the more people who refuse to repost it, who actively speak out against it, the better chance we have of making it known that this is unacceptable.  These guys may choose to live in the public eye, but that doesn’t mean people have the right to invade their private one.