Update: CREW has received responsive record’s from the Governor Ron DeSantis’s office. View the records here.
April 16, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis might have designated World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) an “essential service” due to the organization’s close Trump ties. DeSantis’s original April 1st Executive Order listed “essential services”—businesses that could continue operating during the COVID-19 public health emergency, which did not include WWE. But on April 9, DeSantis added certain businesses to the list, including “professional sports and media production[s] with a national audience.” And by April 13, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced that following a conversation with DeSantis, WWE could stay open, despite Florida’s stay-at-home order.
WWE co-founder Linda McMahon previously served in Trump’s cabinet and is currently serving as chair of pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action. Additionally, the April 9 memorandum deeming WWE an “essential service” was issued the same day America First Action announced a $18.5 million dollar ad buy for Tampa and Orlando.
CREW has requested Florida state and Orange County communications between DeSantis, Demmings, and McMahon with any mention of WWE.
If Florida is allowing certain businesses with Trump ties to stay open, then that would not only be an undue public health risk but also another way that Trump is manipulating states to give special treatment to businesses that benefit him or his close associates. It could also be another way Florida is rewarding Trump for his pattern of showing favoritism towards the state. If Florida is using the coronavirus shutdowns as a way to pay political favors to Trump, then the public deserves to know the extent that their politicians weigh industry money and influence over increased risks to public health.