By Madeleine Mankey
WWE has been allowed to resume no-audience events in Florida following a decision by the governor’s office that professional wrestling is an “essential business”.
Since the 3rd of April, the state of Florida has a “shelter-in-place” order that encourages citizens to stay at home for all but essential travel, such as obtaining food, medicine and caring for vulnerable family members. The state currently has 25,492 COVID-19 cases in total.
While most businesses in Florida have been ordered to shut down in order to slow the spread of coronavirus, the pro-wrestling company has been permitted to broadcast three live shows per week for an online audience.
The decision has been scrutinised due to the company’s long term association with President Donald Trump. Continuing to allow WWE broadcasts means the company will retain highly profitable cable network contracts.
Critics have also noted the proximity of this decision to Linda McMahon’s pledging of $18.5 million to adverts supporting the president in Florida.
Further criticism of the decision has centred around the fact that a WWE employee has tested positive for COVID-19, days after shows were recorded at the performance centre.
However, on April 9th, a memo from Florida governor Ron Desantis included among essential workers, “employees at a professional sports (league) and media production with a national audience — including athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production — only if the location is closed to the general public.”
The official reasoning behind such a move has dismissed political connections, instead focusing on the sports entertainment industry as being critical to Florida’s economy.
Whilst both the timing of the memo and the advertisement spending have drawn suspicion, a spokesperson for WWE has argued, “we believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times.”
As the president seeks to lift lockdown measures as early as May, the COVID-19 situation in the United States continues to evolve.