DeSantis defends labeling WWE, sporting events ‘essential’: ‘People are starved for content’
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday defended the decision to label World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and other professional sports as “essential services” amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying that people were “starved for content.”
“People are chomping at the bit,” DeSantis told reporters at the Florida Capitol, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“If you think about it, we have never had a period like this in modern American history where you’ve had so little new content, particularly in the sporting realm. I mean, we are watching reruns from like the early 2000s.”
The comments from DeSantis came just a day after the mayor of Orange County, Florida, where a WWE training facility is located, confirmed that the wrestling entertainment business had been deemed essential.
Mayor Jerry Demings said that the decision was made in consultation with DeSantis’s office and that it would allow the WWE to tape events at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, so long as no fans were permitted entry.
Florida’s Division of Emergency Management on April 9 issued a memo noting that employees at pro sports and media productions with a national audience would be added to the list of “essential services” as long as events were closed to the public. The memo amended DeSantis’s executive order, mandating people remain home unless they are working in a job deemed essential.
Florida officials have said that the services added to the executive order are critical to its economy.
Speaking on Tuesday, DeSantis emphasized that televised sporting events closed to the public could be a “good thing” from a “psychological perspective.” He suggested that a NASCAR race without a large crowd could be a possibility. He also endorsed a proposal for a one-on-one golf challenge between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“You wouldn’t have the crowds,” DeSantis said. “Put that on TV. People are starved for content. We haven’t had a lot of new content since the beginning of March.”
The WWE said in a statement to The Hill that it is “producing content on a closed set with only essential personnel in attendance … while taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of our performers and staff.”
“We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times,” WWE said.
The WWE confirmed earlier this week that one of its staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The organization said in a statement that it believes the matter to be “low risk to WWE talent and staff.”
“The individual and a roommate became symptomatic in the days following exposure to two people working in acute health care on the evening of March 26, after WWE’s TV production on a closed set was already complete,” WWE said.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus led major sporting leagues and entertainment productions to abruptly shut down around the world, as officials work to slow the spread of the disease. Discussions on how leagues such as the MLB can adjust their season have sprung up in recent weeks, with people like DeSantis and President Trump pushing for a return to sports.
“We have to get our sports back. I’m tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old,” Trump said Tuesday during a White House briefing.