On the latest episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight host John Oliver heavily criticized WWE for running empty arena shows during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Oliver states that the risks outweigh the benefits before calling out the state of Florida for deeming pro-wrestling an essential business.
The state of Florida early on designated professional sports and media production with a national audience as an essential service, so long as it’s closed to the general public. So the WWE has continued staging shows in Florida, holding matches in front of empty chairs, but that requires a lot more people than just those two wrestlers. You need production crews working together in close proximity. And while the WWE maintains its safety measures are as comprehensive as they can possibly be, one employee wrote an anonymous letter to a Florida county commissioner asking them to shut the tapings down because “despite sanitary precautions, we cannot maintain social distancing and have to touch other people.” But it’s easy to see why CEO Vince McMahon doesn’t mind them taking that risk, as he told investors on a recent earnings call, viewers want to see new matches.
I would argue that the risks of creating content like you are seem to outweigh the benefits right now.
Oliver doesn’t just single out WWE, but brings attention to AEW and UFC as well for taking the risk.
And it’s not just the WWE. Their competitor AEW is also taping shows in Florida, and the UFC just last week started hosting matches in Jacksonville.
Check it out below. (Thanks to Uproxx for the transcriptions)