The actions that led to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) being declared ‘essential’ business in the state of Florida on April 9th have come into question in recent days with the rising concern of COVID-19 within the state.
In response to questions concerning WWE’s decision to run events in Flordia despite public health concerns related to COVID-19, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office stated the following in an email.
There are no incident reports written from that address by OCSO [Orange County Sheriff’s Office] deputies in March or April, but we know that our deputies responded to that location several times in the last few weeks. Each time, prior to the additions being made to the Executive Order, either the business was closed or deputies advised the business that they were not in compliance with the Executive Order and that they would have to close. On April 11 and 13, there were complaints (we have no information about who the complaints were from) that the business was filming during the pandemic. But by that time, an April 9 memo from the Florida Division of Emergency Management (attached) had already deemed those types of businesses “essential.”
The Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, v. 2 outlines what the United States Department of Homeland Security identifies as ‘essential’ business. Nowhere in the document are professional sports or sports entertainment mentioned as being essential to the function of the nation during a pandemic. As reported earlier this week, it would not be until former WWE Chief Executive Officer and former member of President Donald Trump’s administration announced President Trump’s America First Super Political Action Committee would spend $18.5 million in the state of Florida, that WWE would be declared ‘essential’ business within Florida.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s office would make changes to what Florida considered to be ‘essential’ business on the same day as the America First announcement, April 9, 2020.
If a backroom deal was made with the Governor’s office, it would have coincided with conversations concerning what staff and roster members WWE officials were deciding to release beginning on April 15th. Kassius Ohono (Chris Hero) and Taynara Conti from NXT have also been released since the initial list became public.
Last year WWE revenues reached a company record of $960.4 million, and are projected to exceed that number this year, even with the pandemic taken into consideration. In 2019, WWE had a gross profit of $322,243,000 and an operating income of $116,510,000. The releases were done to meet financial projections, not to protect the company from losing money — as it will be nearly impossible for them to do so with their current television licensing deals that pay them over $465,000,000 yearly over the next several years.
WWE will release their Q1 2020 financial figures on April 23rd. While they are likely to be worse than expected, the company will probably point to their stock value rising after announcing a large number of firings and furloughs over the past week.