WWE has responded to a public statement read at a recent meeting of the Orange County Board of Commissioners claiming to be from a WWE employee asking the local government to shut down WWE's television tapings and broadcasts. The statement, from a person identified as "John," claimed WWE was forcing staff to work the tapings for fear of being fired if they complain. Additionally, the complaint says that WWE's tapings make it impossible to practice social distancing. In a statement to PWInsider, WWE said:
These accusations aren't true. Employees know they can confidentially go to Human Resources, not the public. Notwithstanding the appropriate protocol, no one would be fired if they were uncomfortable with their surroundings. We've made accommodations for individuals upon request
In an article published by Pro Wrestling Sheet, which is run by Ryan Satin, a correspondent for the WWE television show WWE Backstage, went on to cite as evidence of the veracity of WWE's statement that Roman Reigns, the company's top star who also recently overcame a bout with Leukemia, was allowed to skip tapings due to fear for his health. Here's the statement "John," presumably not a top star, made this morning:
My employer, World Wrestling Entertainment, aka WWE, is forcing me to work at TV tapings for its weekly shows despite stay-at-home orders for coronavirus. I am unable to speak out as I need this job, and I know I will be fired if I approach my higher-ups. Despite sanitary precautions, we cannot maintain social distancing and have to touch other people. I request the government to shut down these tapings and enforce so my colleagues and I may follow social distancing rules without fear or repercussion of losing our jobs.
WWE's statement touts its Human Resources department as the appropriate avenue for employee complaints. Still, HR departments' job is first and foremost to protect the company from liability rather than to help employees.
This recent drama plays out amidst an environment where more than fifty wrestlers and backstage talent unceremoniously laid off or furloughed by WWE in the middle of a global pandemic. The company decided to drop the workers as a cost-cutting measure despite boasting of $500 million in reserves and despite announcing dividends for shareholders the following day totaling $9.4 million, enough to keep everyone employed into 2021. This followed WWE obtaining a special exemption from Florida's stay-at-home order to continue operating as an "essential" business. The exemption granted the same day a Republican Super PAC headed up by Linda McMahon pledged to spend $18.5 million in the state this year to ensure WWE Hall-of-Famer Donald Trump wins his reelection effort.