But why they probably won’t
(If you’d rather listen than read I talked about this on my Rob the Genius podcast on Anchor, Spotify, and Apple podcasts).
As of right now, WWE and AEW are still going to be putting on TV shows. They both taped a good bit of stuff in March and early April but now WWE is reportedly going live again in a few days and AEW will probably be doing another mass taping in a few weeks themselves if not also going live. This is despite the fact that at least on Twitter that most of us are at the very least perfectly fine with them taking a break until things have legimately calmed down with the coronavirus. So why are they doing this? Well of course it’s money, but the are layers to it all that we need to dig into so that we can get a full picture of what’s going on here. And that picture is as much an indictment of TV networks and our entire economic system as it is these two individual companies. Here’s how:
First up, everyone that can run live events without a crowd is trying to figure out a way to do it from pro wrestling to the major sports leagues to who knows what else. Why? Because the real money in all of these comes from TV and other broadcasting rights, not tickets or anything else. The reason the NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball can still sign players and coaches to huge contracts despite half empty arenas in a lot of cities is because of the TV money. At the top is the NFL which gets $30 billion a year from TV. But that money is dependent on providing live content be it football games or wrestling shows, and that’s where the problem lies. TV revenue is the only thing any of these guys have coming in right now outside of online merchandise sales so the need to keep that coming in no matter what is real. And there’s a hard reality that if WWE, AEW, and all the sports leagues just completely shut down then the players and performers are going to lose out on money too, because it’s just not going to be there. And that goes double for office employees, other staffers, etc. Layoffs and furloughs are gonna happen.
So we have a situation where the networks want their live content any way they can get it, the owners want to find some way to deliver it so they can get paid, and the players/performers may not really want to do it but are looking at their own bank accounts knowing that they can’t go a whole year without anything coming in. So there’s pressure on everyone involved here. And what we’re seeing going on with the wrestling business is just a test drive for what’s coming in pro sports. Major League Baseball reportedly kicked around an idea to sequester all the players in a few hotels in Arizona and do games with no fans in attendance. The NFL is still saying that they’re going to start on time, and the NBA reportedly has been trying to come up with a way to salvage the season that abruptly ended and start next season. The PGA cancelled the British Open but moved it’s other major tournaments. And while the owners are the ones doing the pushing here it’s only a matter of time before many of the players are forced by necessity to go work in conditions that scare the crap out of them.
But that’s not the worst of it in my opinion. In all of the cases I mentioned at least everyone involved is an adult with real financial interests who can make a decision and take what comes with it. But college football has been absolutely insidious here. A few coaches like Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Dabo Swinney at Clemson have been pushing to start the season on time and even saying that the players can handle it and the case of Gundy flat out saying that they need to play to generate money for the state of Oklahoma. Money that the players do not see a dime of. To ask anyone to go out and risk getting infected with COVID-19 is bad enough, but to ask guys who are not receiving any compensation for their efforts is downright evil in my opinion. If there is no other reason to be in favor of college players getting paid, this is it. I don’t normally make the college sports = slavery analogy but this is one time I’ll go with it. There is no way to play a football game with social distancing, either on the field or the sidelines and you are literally walking some of these kids into a deathtrap no matter how you slice it.
And here’s where I get a little political……
In the United States we have an ingrained philosophy that anyone who’s a working person needs to go to work no matter the circumstances, and that we shouldn’t just give people money and let them stay at home so they can be isolated and choke out this virus. A few states have enacted moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions due to lost employment from the outbreak but many have not and are forcing people to choose between possibly getting sick or possibly becoming homeless (which of course would increase their chances of getting sick). We’ve forced some companies into choosing between staying open and risking everyone’s health or going out of business. And we shouldn’t be doing that. We also have an economy that’s largely built on credit and not paying for things with the money we have in hand (which is largely in part because we don’t pay working people worth a damn but the folks at the top are irresponsible as hell with theirs, too), but we don’t back it up with a strong safety net to keep people afloat when something like this happens. And as a result a lot of people at different income levels are screwed right now.
So let me say very definitively that I think they should all shut down for the time being and that the TV networks should play ball and let them run old games, shows, etc with some live commentary from the players and performers who can participate via Skye or whatever from home. Everyone has some archived content they use for at least the next six months in the case of AEW and even longer for everyone else. Stop playing with fire and keep all of your players, wrestlers, production crew, etc safe during these times. There have already been reports of WWE employees having symptoms and self isolating, being sent home because they were sick, or in the case Roman Reigns smartly opting out of coming in until things get better and less risky. And if these other leagues and companies try to keep going then it’s going to be that on steroids. And if that’s not enough for you then consider that this is gonna take a lot longer to deal with the longer that people refuse to do what’s necessary. So stop being shortsighted and shut everything down until it can be done right and done safely. Seriously, we’ll be fine watching old stuff and waiting for you.