"The Traitors" Star Deontay Wilder Reveals How the Show Triggered Him Enough to Quit

The boxer self-eliminated from the series after it called back to some "childhood trauma."

The competition series The Traitors is a tense game by nature. The show, which is based on the game Mafia, divides a group of contestants into mostly "Faithfuls" with a few "Traitors" in the mix, who scheme together to eliminate the Faithfuls. To win the $250K prize, the Faithfuls have to figure out who the Traitors are amongst them and eliminate them from the game before they're eliminated themselves. Clearly, gameplay involves a lot of lying and deception, and for one contestant, it was too much to take on. Deontay Wilder left The Traitors Season 2 of his own accord and later explained that trauma he experienced in his childhood led to the decision.

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The cast of this season is primarily composed of reality stars from series including The Real HousewivesSurvivor, and Big Brother. But there are also two celebrities who aren't from the reality world: Wilder, who is a professional boxer and won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and John Bercow, who was a member of U.K. Parliament. Wilder only appeared in the first three episodes of Season 2; his absence became apparent in the fourth episode, which aired on Jan. 18.

In an interview with Us Weekly, Wilder explained why he decided to leave the show early.

"This game was definitely harder than I thought it would be," he told the publication. "I thought it was trying to figure out [who] were the Traitors, and being that you have so many more Faithfuls than the Traitors, that it would be kind of easy to try to figure it out. But being on this show, it really struck some childhood trauma from me that I didn't expect."

The 38-year-old athlete continued, "I didn't see this coming in a million years because the things that I dealt with as a child, I never had an outlet to be able to release. Sometimes you go through life and certain things allow you to be able to release that and that emotion and you feel better. But I never had an opportunity or any particular place."

Wilder pointed out that the show encouraging contestants to accuse each other of things "really struck something" in him. "I'm a world traveler. I've been many places around the world, but in this particular moment in time being on this show—I think because of the conditions that it was in—it really drew back the condition that I was in [as a child]," he explained. "People accusing each other of doing things that may not be true."

Us Weekly notes that a 2020 profile of Wilder in The Athletic includes some details about his childhood. His mother left his family when he was nine years old, and while she later returned, she reportedly remained distant. The boxer did now grow up with much; his family was reportedly poor.

Wilder has also opened up about learning that his child was born with spinal bifida and that the baby's mother was leaving him when he was 19 years old. He told BT Sports (via talkSPORT), "Things became very rocky for me, to the point where I lost my family, and to the point where I had a gun in my lap, and I was thinking about committing suicide myself. Those thoughts come to your head; I mean we're all human."

On The Traitors, Wilder got emotional when he accused Dancing with the Stars pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy of being a Traitor. He said that he had bonded with the dancer, so it was difficult for him to make that claim. As reported by Parade, after finding out that Chmerkovskiy was actually a Faithful, Wilder said, "I don't know how much more I can go on. My heart. I can't do this no more."

The boxer told Us Weekly that he is "a very emotional man in general." He added, "Although my profession is the hurt business, as I call it. But as a man, as Deontay Wilder, as a person, I'm a loving, caring guy that I love everybody and I want to see everybody succeed in life."

As for whether he could have made it through the show in other circumstances, he explained to Screen Rant that he might have fared better as a Traitor instead of a Faithful. "I'm a people's person and I love people… we all need each other," he said. "You get a lot of traitors in my profession, so I'm used that world. I think my background, my space of where I come from it fits me better."

If you are or a loved one is struggling with suicide or depression, you can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or visit 988lifeline.org.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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