Republican governor defends classifying WWE as essential service because people are 'starved of content'

By Gino Spocchia

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has said people are "starved" for TV entertainment, as he defended classifying WWE and all professional sports as essential services amid a month-long coronavirus shutdown.

The Republican told reporters on Tuesday that he wanted to see professional sporting events televised because “we haven’t had a lot of new content since the beginning of March,”

“I mean, if you think about it, we’ve never had a period like this in modern American history where you’ve had such little new content, particularly in the sporting realm. I mean, people are watching reruns from the early 2000s”, commented the governor.

He added that people were “chomping at the bit” for new TV content including NASCAR and professional golf, both of which could be played without violating the state’s stay-at-home order.

“I think if NASCAR does a race and can televise it without having a large crowd, I think that’s a good thing,” said Mr DeSantis.

The pro-Trump governor had signed an executive order on 9 April forcing non-essential businesses in Florida to shut until 30 April, before introducing the WWE amendment on 14 April.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings confirmed that WWE had been permitted to continue producing wrestling events at the empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando after Mr DeSantis deemed professional wrestling to be “essential”.

“I think initially there was a review that was done and they were not initially deemed an essential business,” said Mayor Demings on Monday.

On Tuesday, Mr DeSantis was backed by the president, who commented: “We have to get our sports back. I‘m tired watching baseball games that are 14 years old.”

That came on the same day that Linda McMahon, whose husband is WWE CEO Vince McMahon, announced a $20m political donation to Florida. The former WWE executive and Trump administration cabinet member now runs the pro-Trump America First political action committee

WWE has since announced a number of live events to be streamed from its Florida centre during the coronavirus pandemic.