Florida is paving the way for a return of sports, provided no fans are present.
A memo circulated by Jared Moskowitz, state coordinating officer for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, has decreed that sports are to be considered “essential services” for the purpose of the executive order on the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The memo says that people who are allowed to work during the pandemic include “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.”
In other words, nationally televised pro sports could take place in empty arenas in Florida.
The WWE has already taken advantage of that ruling, and aired Monday Night Raw last night from its Orlando training center.
This does not mean the Dolphins, Buccaneers and Jaguars can return to work: The NFL has ruled that no team may begin working at its facility until all 32 teams are allowed to return.
But it does show that pro sports may be able to return sooner than some are expecting, at least in Florida and any other states willing to let them. For the NFL, the start of the season is still far enough away that no one really knows what the situation is going to be by then, but other pro sports may look to Florida as a place where they can get games going soon.
Just because putting on pro sporting events in Florida is legal, however, doesn’t mean it’s responsible. When “essential” services are exempted from stay-home orders, the idea is to allow businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies to stay open because people can’t live without food and medicine. Allowing nationally televised pro sports to take place is about the state of Florida making money off lucrative businesses, not about health and safety.