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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, since the outset, has taken a lackadaisical approach to the coronavirus. The state, famously, let spring breakers continue to rage on its beaches even as the rest of the country hunkered down at home. DeSantis showed little interest in intervening in any way, abdicating his responsibility as governor to a president who was also intent on dodging accountability and sending it right back down to the state level. Weeks later, when DeSantis did finally impose a shelter-in-place order on April 3, eliminating large gatherings and reducing activity to the largely standard essential services, the Republican governor who has only been on the job for several months chose to double back and exempt religious services from the ban. The incomprehensible decision would allow hundreds, if not thousands, of worshippers to gather, wedged shoulder to shoulder in pews, as the pandemic grew.
With the state stay-at-home order in effect until the end of the month, DeSantis has made the latest in his series of questionable decisions, announcing that WWE—yes, the professional wrestling entertainment behemoth—would now count as an essential service, exempting it from shutdown requirements. The order signed last week applies, technically, to “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.” The state lockdown had been in place less than a week at that point.
DeSantis says WWE will be permitted to operate “because they are critical to Florida’s economy.” WWE will now be able to tape and air live events without audiences at the WWE Performance Center near Orlando. The governor, often referred to as a “mini-Trump,” is granting this lucrative exemption to the WWE, which is owned by Trump booster Vince McMahon, whose wife, Linda McMahon, served in the Trump Cabinet and runs a Trump 2020 super PAC.*
“We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times,” WWE said in a statement. “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.”
That leaves an entire nation to rally around the hope, determination, and perseverance of … professional wrestlers.
Correction, April 14, 2020: This post originally misspelled the first name of WWE head Vince McMahon.
For more on the impact of the coronavirus, listen to Tuesday’s episode of What Next.