WWE is clear to resume live television shows at its Orlando training facility and other nearby locations amid the coronavirus pandemic after being deemed an “essential service” by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to ESPN.
The governor’s office outlined the decision in a memo on April 9, and the language could open the door for other promotions to hold events in the state.
Previously, WWE was not exempt from the stay-at-home order issued by DeSantis that went into effect on April 2, preventing the promotion from holding events, even in an empty arena. Prior to the order, WWE — which has had an on-screen employee test positive for the coronavirus — was able to hold Wrestlemania 36 at its WWE Performance Center in Orlando and release it on tape delay.
The change reportedly came after “some conversation” with DeSantis’ office, according to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
With its new exemption, WWE has already begun holding live events like its Monday Night RAW show.
"We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times," the WWE said in a statement. "We are producing content on a closed set with only essential personnel in attendance following appropriate guidelines while taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of our performers and staff. As a brand that has been woven into the fabric of society, WWE and its Superstars bring families together and deliver a sense of hope, determination and perseverance."
However, the decision doesn’t only figure to benefit WWE, judging from the language in DeSantis’ memo.
WWE decision could open door for other sports ... like UFC
Whatever you think about WWE and its place in the sports world, the decision to deem it “essential” apparently goes well beyond the promotion.
The memo from DeSantis actually deemed employees of “professional sports and media production with a national audience” as an essential service:
According to the memo sent by the governor's office last Thursday, recent additions to the list of "essential services" in the state include "employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience -- including any 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."
A spokesperson from DeSantis' office told ESPN on Monday that such services were characterized as essential "because they are critical to Florida's economy."
Obviously, that holds major implications for, say, Major League Baseball if it wants to go forward with its supposed Grapefruit League plan.
There’s also the matter of the UFC, which has fought tooth and nail to hold events amid the coronavirus pandemic with little success. With many of the promotion’s usual states forbidding large gatherings, UFC president Dana White has gone as far as claiming to have secured a private island and renting an arena on tribal land to hold events.
Florida being open to events the size of WWE’s usual shows could be interesting for White, though the other issue of ESPN’s blessing remains. UFC’s broadcast partner is the one that axed UFC 249, and could still be opposed to other events in the near future given the risks of holding an event, even with maximum precautions.
That goes for other sports leagues and promotions as well. Even if Florida allows sports in front of empty stadiums, that doesn’t mean the practice will be safe.
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