WWE Classified Essential Business in Florida During Coronavirus Pandemic Despite Taping Shows on Closed Sets

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been reclassified as an essential business in Florida, according to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings on Monday.

WWE has strong ties to Florida, the location of its main training facility, the WWE Performance Center. Television programming has also been taped for the company at Orlando's Full Sail University.

WrestleMania, the company's biggest yearly event, was scheduled to take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida in April. However, social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders caused the relocation of that show, which took place at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.

According to an April memo from Florida's Division of Emergency Management, companies like WWE were added to the list of essential businesses delineated in Governor Ron DeSantis' April shelter-in-place order.

"Employees at a professional sports and media production 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" were called essential businesses in the memo signed by State Coordinating Officer Jared Moskowitz.

"I think initially there was a review that was done and they were not initially deemed an essential business," said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings during a news conference on Monday. "With some conversation with the governor's office regarding the governor's order, they were deemed an essential business. Therefore, they were allowed to remain open."

The designation is expected to allow WWE to broadcast live shows on television and pay-per-view from the Performance Center.

"It is important to note that professional sports activities may only be considered essential if the event location is closed to the general public," a spokesperson from Governor DeSantis' office told Newsweek on Tuesday.

vince mcmahon
WWE has been classified as an essential business in the state of Florida as WWE CEO Vince McMahon's footbal league, XFL, filed for bankruptcy on Monday. Ethan Miller/Getty

"We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times," the WWE said in a statement provided on Monday to Newsweek. "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."

Another sports venture owned by WWE CEO Vince McMahon filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday. XFL, McMahon's football league, ceased operations on Friday and laid off a majority of its employees. Only five games were played by the league before the coronavirus pandemic prevented crowds from viewing the games live.

According to the bankruptcy filing, McMahon and WWE were interest holders in XFL. In March 2019, McMahon sold over 3 million shares of his stock in WWE in order to finance XFL.

"The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football," the XFL said in a Monday statement. "Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis."

This was McMahon's second attempt at establishing a football league with the XFL initially making its debut in 2001. That iteration of XFL only lasted one season, marking a financial loss of over $70 million when the league ceased operations in May 2001.

Updated 11:41 p.m. EST 04/14/2020: This story has been updated with a statement from Governor DeSantis' office.