Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his decision to designate professional wrestling and sporting events “essential services” stemmed from the fact no spectators would be allowed in addition to people being “starved for content.”
According to a state memo issued last week, the governor’s executive order was expanded to slot employees at “a professional sports and media production with a national audience” into so-called essential services, as long as the location at which the production was taking place was closed to the general public.
The revision led WWE, a professional wrestling league, to announce plans to shoot several shows in the state.
Asked about the move on Tuesday, DeSantis said an initial request came in from Disney, which asked to have gardeners go to Disney World “because they have millions of dollars worth of stuff there and it would just go bad.”
Because the workers would be complying with social distancing, the request was approved, as was one made by WWE.
Officials haven’t yet had a lot of requests but are apt to approve of events or scenarios where there are few people and precautions are followed.
“I think that we do need to support content,” especially sports and events, DeSantis said, listing NASCAR races without fans and a head-to-head between golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as possibilities.
“To put that on TV—I think people have been starved for content. We haven’t had a lot of new content since the beginning of March, the middle of March. Here we are in the middle of April, and if people are being told to stay closer to the house, it sure does help to have some fresh things to be able to do,” he told reporters.
“I think people are chomping at the bit. We’ve never had a period of this in modern American history, where you’ve had such little new content, especially in the sporting realm.”
Having some things return to what was normal life before the COVID-19 pandemic would help from a psychological perspective, he added.
WWE said in a statement Wednesday that the company has taken a number of measures in the wake of the pandemic, including cutting compensation for board members and furloughing some workers. It is dealing with approximately $500 million in debt.
“Management continues to believe the fundamentals of the Company’s business remain strong and that WWE is well positioned to take full advantage of the changing media landscape and increasing value of live sports rights over the longer term,” the company stated.
WWE planned to release further details on April 23, when it reports its first quarter results.