Despite everything Booker T has accomplished in the squared circle, one of the things he's most remembered for happened outside of the ring. In an interview while in WCW at the Spring Stampede pay-per-view in 1997, Booker used a racial slur when talking about Hulk Hogan, and the incident has stuck with him ever since.
Booker welcomed Hogan onto his The Hall of Fame w/ Booker T podcast where they relived that moment and the fallout from it.
"It hit me immediately," Booker said of using the slur. "It was the worst day of my life. I cringed when I said it. Literally chills went through my body and I was like, good God what did I just say? The thing, what is not ironic about it is, it's a word I used that word a lot back in my day. In my neighborhood that word was common, it's just something that we said, but in the wrestling business until that day none of my peers had ever heard me use that word. Black guys or white guys, no one had ever heard me say it. Literally, my wife the first time she saw me the first year or so she didn't even think I listened to rap music because I was so straight-laced, so when I said that I said to myself, good God, I froze and I thought that was the end of my career."
Lost in the controversy of Booker using the word was the other person in the equation: Hulk Hogan. Hogan revealed why he didn't lobby for Booker to get fired after the slur.
"I didn't understand at that time what was going on, which was why I had asked you if you felt it immediately or later on because I wasn't aware how intense it was. So honestly, I didn't ever get in to lobby to get anyone fired, much less over that word," said Hogan. "I don't remember being sensitive as the politically-correct environment that is taking place now, so if it went down I wasn't aware of it for years. If it did happen, it went out one ear or the next because I was so used to hearing it, so I didn't know it was that intense back then. Plus I wasn't someone to go in there to fire one of the boys no matter what they did, that is not who I am."
Hogan would have his own racial comment controversy when a leaked tape showed he used racial slurs. He had to deal with the aftermath of that in being labeled a racist and he talked about how he dealt with that.
"Well, I mean, that is what people don't understand. People can say a word and make a mistake - that doesn't mean who they are. The people that keep bringing it up and that keep pushing it forward is who I worry about," stated Hogan. "For me, it was a delayed reaction. I mean, that is kind of like why I asked you [Booker T], I have used the word, almost 13 years ago. It was said in 2006 and I was made aware of it probably about five years ago, I don't think longer than that. To tell you the truth, I don't remember that conversation but that definitely was me and I definitely said it and I mean, total idiot, totally out of control, bad situation, there's a million excuses to say about it, but that was me."
After the news of Hogan's comments went viral, his pastor Michael Beckwith, who is black and is one of Hogan's closest friends, visited him to talk things out.
"He called me after it happened and said, 'Terry, do we have some problems?' I explained to Michael what had happened and he said, 'First off, God forgives you. Whenever you have a small problem, tell your big God about your small problems.' I told him that I had already talked to God about it and he told me to not worry what people think about you, worry about what God thinks about you. He gave me some really good advice, and after that there was a ton of support from all of my friends, but the hardest part was trying to explain to people who didn't know me and some people only knew me because of that where they hadn't heard of Hulk Hogan outside of hearing that crazy news," said Hogan.
"I think normal people can understand that if someone does make a mistake you need to give them a second chance and see who they really are. It has been a really tough time, brother. I won't joke about it at all but I am just grateful now that my friends never left me, the fans never left me, and a lot of the people who don't really know who I am, I have had the opportunity to speak to them as I can and try to not make any excuses and be held accountable and to say that was me that said it but that is not who I am."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Hall of Fame w/ Booker T with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.