Despite farming being the largest industry in Florida — after hospitality crashed — and a WWE employee testing positive for COVID-19, DeSantis says the show will go on.
Body slams and pile drives can go on in the Sunshine State. With Florida under a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s one business deemed essential by Florida’s governor that is raising some eyebrows: pro wrestling.
Florida’s top emergency official last week amended Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order which was issued at the start of the month. Pro sports were added to a list of essential businesses allowed to stay open in an April 9 memorandum to include “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience … only if the location is closed to the general public.”
Farmers, on the other hand, have been waiting for the federal and local government’s support while their harvest goes to waste in front of their eyes and people worry about food shortages. The Coronavirus Relief Bill promises to alleviate their already vulnerable financials but it is uncertain how soon they will get the help during this pandemic.
The amendment allows World Wrestling Entertainment, run by CEO Vince McMahon in metro Orlando, to continue putting on shows — without fans.
DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday that people are “champing at the bit” for new entertainment to boost morale while housebound. He also would like to see other sporting events, maybe NASCAR races without an audience or a redo of the Tiger Woods vs Phil Mickelson golf match. “If you think about it, we’ve never had a period like this in modern American history where you’ve had such little new content, particularly in the sporting realm,” the governor said.
A WWE employee tested positive for the coronavirus in the days after the company recorded shows at the WWE Performance Center, and the unnamed employee’s roommate also was showing COVID-19 symptoms, but the company deems the matter “low risk” to wrestlers and staff, the statement said.
The statement also said the employee and roommate were exposed to two people who work in acute health care on March 26. “The employee had no contact with anyone from WWE since being exposed to those two individuals, is doing well, and made a complete recovery”.
At a news conference on Monday, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the WWE Performance Center initially wasn’t deemed an essential business that could stay open during a lockdown, before the list was amended. But that changed after a conversation with the governor’s office. “With some conversation with the governor’s office, regarding the governor’s order, they were deemed an essential business. Therefore, they were allowed to remain open,”
The amended list of essential businesses also added mental health and drug addiction counseling, as well theme park workers needed to take care of animals and maintain the property. DeSantis said Tuesday that the state had been approached by businesses including Disney and WWE seeking the essential business exemptions, and that he would consider additional requests as long as the activities can abide by safety guidelines.
“We haven’t had a huge amount of requests,” the governor said.
In an email, the Florida State Emergency Operations Center said the sports activities and theme park additions to the list were added: “because they are critical to Florida’s economy.”
McMahon, and his wife, Linda, have deep connections to President Donald Trump, whose support last year launched DeSantis into the Florida Governor’s Mansion. Trump hotels have hosted WrestleMania events. Trump himself has wrestled in matches, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Linda McMahon was Trump’s first head of the Small Business Administration.
WWE said it is “producing content” on a closed set with only essential workers at the facility. It is “taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of our performers and staff,” the company said in a statement.
But Demings, the Orange County mayor, expressed concern. “If one of the family members in my house tested positive, that would be concerning to me. We would have to make some provisions in my house to make sure the rest of us did not get it,” Demings said. “I would assume from a business perspective that the WWE is doing that kind of analysis on its family.”