Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken an unexpected step to try to keep Floridians entertained and the economy afloat during the global pandemic: supporting professional wrestling.
World Wrestling Entertainment was deemed an “essential business” last week, allowing it to tape events at an empty performance center in Orlando. That came after DeSantis issued an executive order directing people to stay home unless they are doing something essential.
At a time when public health experts are urging people to keep their distances from each other, deeming pro wrestling “essential” --- a sport where people clad in costumes scuffle on stage --- raised some eyebrows.
The move also drew a national buzz for another reason: politics.
On the same day that WWE was deemed essential in Florida, the pro-Trump America First Action political committee, which is led by Linda McMahon, the wife of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, announced in a news release that it would spend $1.8 million in the Tampa and Orlando media markets.
Trump’s support was critical to DeSantis getting elected governor in 2018. But DeSantis, who is helping Trump try to win again in Florida this year, said Wednesday that the WWE decision had nothing to with politics.
“What does that have to do with me? Have they (McMahons) supported me?” the governor said when a reporter asked about the political connection at a news conference in Tallahassee.
The website for the governor's political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, shows zero contributions from the couple.
“If there is no support, it would be really hard to draw that connection at that point. Not that it would be legitimate anyway. But in this case, the factual predicate isn’t even there,” DeSantis said.
Instead, the governor said his decision was based on a need to alleviate boredom and anxiety for people stuck at home amid the pandemic.
“There’s not a lot for people to look at right now and I think you are starting to see that it is starting to wear on some people. So my view would be, let’s do what we need to do to stop the spread (of COVID-19) and to make sure we are flattening the curve, but at the same time you can give people some outlets,” DeSantis said. “Maybe that’s with programming on TV.”
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