Florida has made controversial news after the state’s government classified professional, nationally televised sports as “essential services” in the midst of the pandemic.
The news was released in an April 9 memo from Jared Moskowitz, who is the state coordinating officer for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The relevant segment listed “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.”
“Urgent counseling services” such as those offering help for substance abuse, mental health, and domestic violence were also included in the list of newly added essential services, along with amusement parks, aquariums, zoos, and entertainment complexes, though the latter locations aren’t allowed to be open to the public.
This has opened the door for promotions like the WWE to keep hosting events, and the pro wrestling organization did just that, airing Monday Night Raw from its location in Orlando. However, in accordance with the memo, the event took place without a public audience.
The statement provides an opportunity for promotions like the UFC — which recently went on a crazy roller coaster that ended with the indefinite postponement of all upcoming events, including UFC 249 — but given that Dana White ultimately made his decision to postpone the cards based on a call with concerned Disney and ESPN figureheads, we may still have to wait a while before seeing any real fighting on our televisions again.
This development has sparked controversy, and the news that the WWE in particular would be declared an “essential business” has been met with incredulity from the public. Given that expert recommendations to minimize the virus’ spread include social distancing, allowing the recommencement of professional wrestling and most other sports would work directly against efforts to reduce the coronavirus’ impact.