Florida: Let's Get Ready To Rumble/Catch And Maybe Die Of COVID-19!
When we think of "essential services," most of us think of things like grocery stores, gas stations, medical services, things otherwise involving food and everything else we need to live on. Sure, yes, hardware stores. If your toilet goes out, you'll definitely need to fix that. Then there's Florida, and when Florida thinks of "essential services" they think burly men getting dressed up in fancy leotards, yelling a lot and doing fake wrestling on television.
On Thursday of last week, not long after Governor Ron DeSantis finally got around to issuing a stay-at-home order, Jared Moskowitz of the Florida Division of Emergency Management signed an order approving several additions to jobs considered "essential services." These included those in mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence counseling, "to the extent those services may be offered within social distancing guidelines" (fair!), those working at theme parks, zoos, aquariums etc. who need to be there to take care of animals and do payroll processing (fair!), and ...
"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".
That last one refers pretty specifically to the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). The designation was approved by Governor DeSantis after a conversation with Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
It seems like an extra bad idea in light of the fact that at least one WWE employee has, in fact, been diagnosed with coronavirus. However, WWE told Pro-Wrestling Sheet that everything was fine because the employee had no contact with anyone on set:
A WWE employee has tested positive for COVID-19. We believe this matter is low risk to WWE talent and staff, as the individual and a roommate became symptomatic in the days following exposure to two people working in acute health care on the evening of March 26, after WWE's TV production on a closed set was already complete. The employee had no contact with anyone from WWE since being exposed to those two individuals, is doing well, and made a complete recovery.
It still seems like a bad idea to me, especially considering how extremely not conducive to social distancing the sport is.
But I'm not Ron DeSantis. I am also not friends with Donald Trump, who is himself super good friends with WWE impresario Vince McMahon and had his wife, Linda McMahon, in his Cabinet until she left to start a Trump Super PAC called America First Action. Not that these things are at all related to this decision. Surely, it is pure coincidence.
In a statement to ESPN, a representative for the WWE said:
"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."
There's nothing wrong with a diversion! I love diversions! But really, with all of the streaming services we have, we're not really in any danger of running out of them any time soon. Also, let's be real — right now, people are trying to avoid family togetherness. Because we're all getting pretty sick of each other! (In case my mother is reads this, which she will: Not you, you're lovely.)
There is nothing "essential" about wrestling. I don't know anyone who has been saying, "Oh boy, I just don't think I could go another day without watching televised wrestling!" And you may think that is because I am some kind of elitist, but I will have you know that I actually have several friends who are super into that shit. They are, however, not jerks who would put wrestling over people's safety, Ron DeSantis style.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse