Yesterday (Jan. 11), WWE announced Drew McIntyre had tested positive for COVID-19. He then appeared on Raw from quarantine to, among other things, advocate for mask-wearing and social distancing as an effective means of slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Which is great! I’ve been fortunate in that none of my friends and loved ones are among the more than 375,000 people who’ve died of COVID in the United States. But as the husband of an ICU nurse, I can also attest to the fact that just because you haven’t personally experienced illness and loss it doesn’t mean the pandemic isn’t having a devastating effect on our society. Any prominent voices arguing for sane, considerate, easy to implement preventative measures like mask-wearing are welcome.
But it’s hard not to wonder if a company that produces seven hours of nationally televised programming watched by millions of people every week couldn’t have had more on an impact on this crisis.
What if they’d mixed some education into Raw, SmackDown, and NXT along with the admittedly needed distraction from the real-world? Or used their larger-than-life characters to deliver messages about shared sacrifices and persevering in the face of a daunting challenge in-between putting smiles on faces amidst the prevailing circumstances?
Or how about simply modeling any of the life-saving behaviors McIntyre spoke about?
Even now that they’ve officially addressed COVID on Raw, Monday nights are a mask-free broadcast. Social distancing isn’t practiced anywhere, even in situations where it wouldn’t be difficult to implement.
Do all interviews as split screen or via remote rather than having someone standing next to each wrestler to stick a microphone in their face. Space out the commentary desk and/or put up plexiglass between the announcers. Have referees, trainers, camera and production team members wear masks.
Everyone at WWE tapings is screened and tested, but no system is fool-proof. And even though it likely wouldn’t stop the occasional outbreaks the company’s experienced, if even a fraction of a percentage of the audience is influenced to adopt some of those measures in their own lives, it would be worth it.
There’s so much blame to go around when it comes to how the United States and much of the world has handled the pandemic and contributed to its staggering numbers of sick and dead. WWE is way down the list. And no, it’s not the only wrestling company that could have done more.
But now that they’ve broken the seal on acknowledging COVID, perhaps they could go a little farther? I’m not asking for pro-vaccination promos from popular stars... but come to think of it, that wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Whatever they do just might help bring about something we all want to see happen a little sooner - getting fans back in arenas.