Senior Editor of Ad Age Jeanine Poggi sat down with WWE Chief Brand Office Stephanie McMahon to talk about how WWE has pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic. McMahon noted that participating in WWE programming is optional noting that some talent have chosen to opt out like Roman Reigns has chosen to do. She also detailed the COVID-19 testing WWE has done.
"First and foremost, it's all optional. It's volunteer-based," McMahon noted. "So for all of our performers and our crew, it's up to them if they want to participate. We did have a couple of talent opt out and a couple of crew members opt out for various personal reasons, and of course, we support that.
"In addition, we do testing before all of our programming, and it is the more advanced testing. It's not the rapid test which has shown to have had a number of false positives and false negatives. Though all of the testing is improving, we want to be sure to have the best testing possible because the health and safety of our crew, our performers and our employees is paramount."
McMahon also noted that the WWE Performance Center undergoes a deep cleaning every night. She also mentioned a spray that WWE uses from Allied BioScience as well as a policy of where even if someone test negative for COVID-19, if they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, then they are not allowed inside the facility.
"We also have pandemic-level cleaning that we have at our Performance Center every single night which includes fogging and this special lighting," McMahon added. "We also had this application of a product that is from a company called Allied Sciences that creates a barrier between the virus and whatever you're spraying it on.
"So we've sprayed our production trucks, we've sprayed basically our warehouse, our Performance Center, basically any facility or any location where our talent, employees and crew are staying. Even now, when you have tested negative, so you're negative for the virus, you still have to come in have a temperature check and fill out a form, and if you've been in contact or whatever the various steps are, you're not allowed into the facility even if you tested negative."
McMahon said that WWE has been doing the best that they can and is proud of the measures they have taken despite multiple people testing positive.
"I do think we've done the best we've possibly can," McMahon said. "I think the testing and protocols have actually proven that they work. Yes, we've had some positives, but the majority of our talent, performers and crew are very healthy and continuing to be a part of our shows. We're proud.
"Of course, we want to be smart. We want to be sensitive. We want to take care of all people. Without them, we don't have a show. We don't have a product, but we also want to make sure we entertain our fans all over the world. We're proud of the fact we've been able to do that."
Due to HIPPA laws, McMahon could not disclose too many details about talent's medical proceedings. She did talk about the contact tracing program that WWE implements for their talent and employees.
"We have a whole system that is provided by our medical team," McMahon noted. "If you do test positive, what's the contact tracing? There's various levels of that contact tracing. We notify other performers, employees or crew in accordance to the guidelines of our medical team."
During the live broadcast, viewers had an opportunity to ask questions. One person asked whether WWE offered any health and medical insurance to the talent. McMahon said that all talent are independent contractors so they do not provide medical insurance, but she noted that WWE does pay for all surgeries or injury-related costs that happen in the ring. She also talked about the substance abuses program that WWE provides to help current and former WWE talent with drug or alcohol abuse.
"So our talent are all independent contractors, so we actually don't provide medical insurance for our talent," McMahon stated. "We pay for all injuries, any surgeries or anything related to all in-ring injuries. We do have substance and abuses protocols that we offer our talent both current and retired. So anyone that's ever had issues with drug and alcohol abuse, they can be a part of this program. WWE itself, for our employees, we do have health, medical and overall wellness and mental health."
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to work from home. McMahon talked about how that has changed the way WWE thinks. She joked that her father, Vince McMahon, was the only one showing up at the office, and she talked about how they can still operate while people work from home causing WWE to look at how they operate.
"It's funny, I think our company has been traditional in some ways in terms of believing you had to be in the room to have the conversation, and I think this has really opened our eyes," McMahon admitted. "We've had so many of our employees working remotely, except maybe for our Chairman and CEO who was the only person in the office.
"I think we've absolutely learned so much. We are capable of working remotely. We've recently put out a poll if you will to all of our employees. 'How many of you would like to remain working from home?' We're having real-time conversations as to what our business is going to look like to the point where we actually delayed our move to our new corporate headquarters. We were supposed to continue to move down that process. We're looking at that now and reevaluating opportunities there, and what do we really need?"
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Ad Age with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.