Wrestling company considered an 'essential business' in Florida

Every stay-at-home order makes exceptions for "essential businesses," though Florida appears to have pushed the issue in a direction that's tough to defend
Image: Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks about the COVID-19 virus during a news conference at the Florida Department of Health, in Miami on March 2, 2020.Brynn Anderson / AP file

Every state with a stay-at-home order makes at least some exceptions for "essential businesses," though the specific details tend to vary from state to state.

Florida, however, appears to have pushed the issue in a direction that's awfully tough to defend. The Miami Herald reported overnight:

Count professional wrestling among the essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies that can stay open despite coronavirus-related restrictions statewide. WWE will continue taping and airing live from the empty WWE Performance Center near Orlando even during the state's month-long "shelter-in-place," which Gov. Ron DeSantis announced April 1.

According to the article, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) wasn't originally considered an "essential business," but according to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (D), there was "some conversation" that apparently changed the Republican governor's mind.

It's probably worth noting for context that WWE was co-founded by Linda McMahon, the company's former president and CEO, who went on to serve on Donald Trump's cabinet, leading the Small Business Administration.

McMahon, who's married to current WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, now leads a leading pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, which is already making sizable investments in support of the president's re-election campaign.

Regrettably, this isn't the only recent controversy surrounding the Florida governor. As we discussed last week, DeSantis, a former far-right congressman and sycophantic Trump ally, has also come under fire for waiting too long to issue a statewide stay-at-home order and loosening stricter guidelines that had been imposed at the local level. DeSantis sparked a related controversy by creating exemptions in his order that may put some Floridians at risk.

The Miami Herald also reported over the weekend that the GOP governor's general counsel allegedly took steps to "quash a public-records lawsuit" filed by the newspaper as part of its investigation into the state's response to the pandemic.

The Tampa Bay Times ran a related report the same day, shining a light on DeSantis' "uneven" response to the crisis, explaining, "DeSantis has made erroneous claims -- like on Thursday when he suggested no one under the age of 25 has died from the coronavirus in the United States. He has pushed unproven medical cures while dismissing advice from health experts. He has shared wrong information, potentially affecting millions of people, that went uncorrected for hours. Unlike other governors, DeSantis doesn't hold regular public briefings. He has ceded the biggest decisions, like whether to close beaches, to city and county officials, yet he hasn't talked to many of them."

The article added that the governor's briefings are "irregular in frequency and substance. Some days, he doesn't have them. Sometimes, the briefings are announced the minute he holds them, preventing reporters from attending or members of the public from watching."

A couple of weeks ago, Jared Kushner addressed reporters from the White House press briefing room, noting that the coronavirus crisis has helped reveal which leaders are "better managers than others." As part of the same set of comments, he added, "What a lot of the voters are seeing now is that when you elect somebody to be a mayor or governor or president, you're trying to think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis."

I think that was correct, though probably not in the way Kushner intended.