Society tends to disagree more often than not on a list of ongoing topics. If there is one thing that is agreeable among individuals is that sports bring joy and entertainment in many ways around the world. Once the COVID-19 outbreak made its way to the U.S., all sports companies, including the NFL, NBA, NHL, soccer teams and many more began making arrangements as to how they would continue their seasons. As athletes began to test positive and the intensity of the virus was more than clear, most sports events and tournaments were either cancelled or postponed. Sports companies made decisions as such not only to ensure the health of viewers but also those of athletes.
Most sport leagues and entertainment companies were quick to make these decisions as public health is a priority. World famous wrestling company WWE anticipates yearly the arrival of its biggest event, Wrestlemania. This event takes place every early spring season and welcomes over 80,000 fans in attendance. The event was scheduled to take place Sunday, April 4, at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay. As the outbreak continued to worsen WWE CEO Vince McMahon showed no interest in cancelling this event until all the negative feedback and comments ultimately resulted in a change of plans.
On March 12, WWE officials met with Florida city officials and confirmed that the event could still take place despite all other sporting events being cancelled or postponed. It only took a few days before the company made its decision to go forth with the event with some changes. The event would be held on April 4 and 5 at the company’s performance center in Orlando with no audience and only authorized personnel were to be permitted inside the building.
The company is known for their weekly live shows, but decided to pre-record tapings including the big event of Wrestlemania in order for the wrestlers to be quarantined with their loved ones at home and take care of their health.
Professional wrestler Roman Reigns who is at the top of the company, is also known for having won multiple battles with leukemia. Although he had the biggest match on the card and was set to be the main event, he publicly announced on his instagram that he decided to pull back from the match due to health concerns for himself and his family. Several other superstars followed in his footsteps in fear of infection.
The event of Wrestlemania was also prerecorded at its enclosed facility. According to WWE.com, McMahon added safety measures prior to the event by testing employees before entering the performance center. Despite the claims of the health of its workers being monitored the company took it upon themselves and released a statement on their website that confirmed staff members at the performance center, where these tapings were taking place tested positive for COVID-19. It was later updated and informed the public that this worker had recovered. This was a major scare for its employees, but it was not enough to put these tapings to a halt.
On April 13, Florida governor Ron DeSantis deemed WWE an essential business, allowing them to resume the taping of their weekly shows without an audience.
At the press conference the audience was curious to know why a wrestling company would be deemed an essential business. Although Mayor of Orange County, Florida Jerry Demings was not the one who made this decision, he answered questions from reporters. The Associated Press at New York Times later wrote an article on the conference regarding the status of WWE.
They wrote, “With some conversations with the governor’s office regarding the governor’s order, they were deemed an essential business. Therefore, they were allowed to remain open.”
Per WWE, McMahon made a statement about this decision. He wrote, “We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times. 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.”
This decision to allow WWE to continue its tapings has many people talking and wondering how much the company truly cares for its employees. Speculations also arose as reminders of the McMahon family funding millions towards Trump’s foundation. Rhyan Clark from EWrestlingNews also brought to light that the wife of McMahon, Linda McMahon’s super PAC donated $18.5 million to the state of Florida the day WWE was announced an essential business, adding to the fact that she served as the administrator of the small business administration from 2017 to 2019.
During his speech on April 14, Donald Trump, who has been a long part of WWE and is in their hall of fame, spoke about sports leaders who will help to regain strength in the economy. As he named the CEOs of different sports leagues, he continued to address McMahon as the “great” Vince McMahon.
During a press conference with governor DeSantis many questions arose regarding the connection between the McMahons, Trump and the decision for the company to be deemed essential and wasn’t too interested in the questions.
He answered, “What does that have to do with me? They supported me? Did you look up that? And they didn’t, right?”
It becomes a question of whether this was an act for the fans to help cope during the pandemic or a selfish act to boost Florida’s economy.
Ana Delgadillo is a staff writer for The Express. Follow her at @aaanakd.