World wrestling body WWE has severed ties with Hulk Hogan, one of the organisation’s biggest stars.
The company has deleted most references to Hogan on its website and issued a statement saying it had terminated its contract with arguably the best-known US wrestler in history.
The WWE did not give a reason, but issued a statement saying it is “committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide”.
The move comes amid a joint report from RadarOnline.com and The National Enquirer that Hogan used racial slurs in a conversation caught on a sex tape he is fighting in court to keep private.
Hogan later issued a statement in which he apologises for his words and insists the comments are “inconsistent with his own beliefs”.
In a statement released exclusively to PEOPLE.com, he said: “Eight years ago I used offensive language during a conversation. It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologise for having done it.
“This is not who I am. I believe very strongly that every person in the world is important and should not be treated differently based on race, gender, orientation, religious beliefs or otherwise.
“I am disappointed with myself that I used language that is offensive and inconsistent with my own beliefs.”
He added to the publication he will use the situation to “improve as a person” and considers what has happened to be an “important learning experience.”
Today, WWE removed all mentions of Hulk Hogan from its website, pulled him from series ‘Tough Enough’ and stopped selling his merchandise and issued a statement claiming they had “terminated” his contract.
The statement read: “WWE terminated its contract with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan). WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.”
However, Hogan’s lawyer David Houston has claimed the grappler resigned from the company out of respect for the organisation.
Houston said: “He decided to resign from WWE because he didn’t want to put them or his family through this.”
The sex tape on which Hogan is reported to have made the comments was leaked in 2012 and is currently the subject of a $100m lawsuit brought against website Gawker – the outlet that leaked the tape – by Hogan for invasion of privacy and publication without public interest.
The sex tape was made without Hogan’s consent in 2008 and features him with Heather Clem, the now ex-wife of his former friend Bubba ‘The Love Sponge’ Clem.
He settled his lawsuits with Heather and Bubba out of court but his case with Gawker is set to go to court later this year.