The Orange County Sheriff's Department reportedly visited the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, FL several times over the last few weeks, in March and April, to tell the company that it was not in compliance with the "stay-at-home" Executive Order issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and that they had to shut the tapings down, according to Orlando reporters Jon Alba and Stephanie Coueignoux.
Alba reports that Orange County deputies were called again on Monday regarding the live RAW that aired on the USA Network. However, the new Executive Order from DeSantis, signed on April 9, already allowed for WWE to continue operations as an essential business. There's no word on who was calling the sheriff's department or how many calls they received since March. Coueignoux said deputies told her that on Monday "someone called to say there would be taping at the location that evening" and they responded to the Performance Center again before RAW, but the April 9 order allowed WWE to continue.
As noted, Governor DeSantis issued an amended Executive Order this past Thursday, April 9, that deemed WWE an essential business, allowing them to stay in business.
The full memo from the Division of Emergency Management, from the amended Executive Order from DeSantis, can be read at this link. It allows WWE and other sports-related businesses to resume operations. The amended order, issued to the Florida Division of Emergency Management from DeSantis and State Coordinating Officer Jared Moskowitz, includes the following:
As Director of the Division of Emergency Management, designated the State Coordinating Officer per Executive Order 20-52 for the public health emergency (COVID-19), in accordance with Executive Order 20-91 I approve the following as additions to the list of "essential services" for the purposes of that Executive Order:
1. Employees at services and programs addressing metal health, substance abuse, domestic violence and other urgent counseling, to the extent those services may be offered within social distancing guidelines.
2. Employees at theme park and entertainment complexes, zoological parks and facilities, and aquarium facilities, all of which are closed to the general public, who are necessary for: (a) ensuring the health, safety and security of persons, animals, and property (b) maintaining the value of inventory; (c) preserving plant, property and equipment condition; (d) maintaining regulatory compliance; (e) processing payroll and employee benefits; (f) facilitating the availability of employees working remotely; and (g) other activities otherwise necessary to preserve and maintain the facilities.
3. 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.
That last item would apparently allow WWE and AEW to continue taping in the state of Florida, on closed sets, as they have national audiences. There's no word yet on if this means AEW will return to Daily's Place in Jacksonville, or if they will remain in Norcross, GA for their next set of tapings. They reportedly have enough content to run through mid-May.
Alba noted that DeSantis commented on WWE at a press conference today.
DeSantis said he feels the people need to support events if they can be done safely like NASCAR, and Woods-Mickelson. The Governor said, "Obviously WWE, there's no crowd or anything, so it's a very small number of people. So we just look at it at a case by case basis."
DeSantis was also asked specifically about essential businesses being given the OK to operate and WWE was used as the example, according to Alba. It was noted that DeSantis briefly touched the topic, then spoke at length on other sports he'd like to see back operating in the Sunshine State, emphasizing their importance. He then walked off the podium. Alba stressed that the amended order means just about any Florida sports league can resume operations now, but they're choosing not to. The NBA's Orlando Magic could hold a scrimmage game tomorrow if they wanted to.
We noted on Monday that Orange County, FL Mayor Jerry Demings revealed at a press conference how WWE was originally deemed non-essential, but that was changed after "some conversation" with DeSantis' officer in regards the stay-at-home order. Demings said then WWE was allowed to remain open, but he did not mention other sports leagues being included in that amended order. As noted in a later report on Monday, spokesperson from DeSantis office told ESPN on Monday evening that such services were deemed essential "because they are critical to Florida's economy."
Regarding Monday's press conference held by Orange County Mayor Demings, it was noted that county officials are the ones that originally deemed WWE to be an unessential business, after a review. That was overturned by DeSantis' office with the amended Executive Order, which allowed all sports leagues to continue, as mentioned above.
On a related note, Alba and Coueignoux have pieced together a timeline regarding WWE and a Super PAC to support the re-election of President Trump, which is ran by Linda McMahon. Alba and Coueignoux noted that the Super PAC ran by Linda committed $18.5 million for Trump's re-election campaign in the state of Florida on last Thursday, which was the same day Governor DeSantis named WWE and other sports leagues as essential. It was then announced on Friday, April 10 that WWE would resume live TV episodes from the Performance Center. Coueignoux noted that she reached out to DeSantis' office to ask how WWE is critical to Florida's economy. The Governor previously stated that pro sports are "critical to Florida's economy." You can view the timeline below:
Coueignoux said she pointed out how WWE is currently running with no audience and only essential personnel. She asked what revenue is being generated and if so, how is it benefiting the people of Florida. She was still waiting on a statement back as of this writing. Coueignoux is speculating that politics were involved with WWE being deemed essential, as Linda previously served in Trump's Cabinet as head of the Small Business Administration and now runs the "America F1rst Action" pro-Trump Super PAC, but it should be noted that she is only speculating for now.
WWE aired last night's RAW live from the Performance Center for the first time in weeks. They reportedly plan to continue airing live WWE NXT, SmackDown and RAW tapings from the Performance Center and the NXT Arena at Full Sail University. The May 10 Money In the Bank pay-per-view may also air from the Performance Center. The Florida "stay-at-home order" is set to run until Thursday, April 30, but it no longer applies to WWE or AEW, and will likely be extended as other states have done.
Stay tuned for more from the WWE - AEW tapings situation in Florida.
You can see the related tweets from Alba and and Coueignoux below:
.@OrangeCoSheriff was called again yesterday (April 13) regarding the live Monday Night Raw taping, but at that point, the new Executive Order signed April 9 allowed for #WWE to operate as an essential business.— Jon Alba (@JonAlba) April 14, 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis just now about #WWE: "Obviously WWE, there's no crowd or anything, so it's a very small number of people. So we just look at it at a case by case basis."— Jon Alba (@JonAlba) April 14, 2020
Said he feels we need to support events if they can be done safely like NASCAR, Woods/Mickelson.
Orange County deemed WWE to be an unessential business. It was the governor's office that overturned it.— Jon Alba (@JonAlba) April 14, 2020
.@StephanieCNews and I pieced together this timeline regarding #WWE:— Jon Alba (@JonAlba) April 14, 2020
April 9: DeSantis qualifies WWE as essential. Same day, Linda McMahon's re-elect Trump Super PAC commits $18.5 million to Florida.
April 10: Vince McMahon reportedly made decision to tape live in Orlando. https://t.co/lmyomQUmSp