You don’t need a sports blog to tell you that Florida and California, and their governors Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom, have had different approaches to coronavirus regulations. These disparities are now on full display as it relates to Disney, with Disney World open in Florida and Disneyland closed in California. This is a sticking point for Disney chairman Bob Iger, who resigned from Governor Gavin Newsom’s economic recovery task force in early October.
The two sides can speak politely about it in public, but Iger vs. Newsom is a battle of heavyweight titans. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could be foes in the 2024 Democrat presidential primary.
As the Wall Street Journal describes, there’s been considerable conflict between Disney and the state of California over the past few weeks:
“Ambitions to reopen Disneyland had already suffered a setback earlier that week, when Orange County failed to advance to Tier 3, from Tier 2, in California’s four-tier system outlining when and how certain businesses can reopen. Moving to the third tier would have reflected ‘moderate’ community spread of the coronavirus, compared with the current ‘substantial.’ Tier 3 allows many indoor and outdoor businesses to either reopen or increase capacities. Two hours after the state announced that the county wasn’t progressing to a new tier, Disney said it was laying off 28,000 workers across its theme-parks division, citing the inability to reopen Disneyland as a factor.”
Then there were reportedly plans to announce reopening guidelines for theme parks in early October. There would be 25% capacity restrictions, and customers wouldn’t be able to visit from more than 120 miles away. Disney bristled. Iger soon after resigned from the economic recovery task force.
“There’s disagreements in terms of opening a major theme park,” Governor Newsom said last week, via the Wall Street Journal. “We’re going to be led by a health-first framework, and we’re going to be stubborn about it.”
The New York Times published a story on Friday about how the worst fears of the virus have not come true with regards to the Disney World reopening in Florida. “We’ve had very few [positive tests], and none, as far as we can tell, have been from work-related exposure,” said Eric Clinton, president of the UNITE HERE Local 362, which represents roughly 8,000 Disney World workers.
Last week, we wrote about the potential for hundreds of layoffs at Disney-owned ESPN in the coming months. Disney has faced major challenges in a number of its businesses due to the pandemic, including theme parks, movies, and live sports rights. Sports revenues have mostly been salvaged, but there was some inventory lost in college football, the Little League World Series, and some other sports. Clearly, the battle with California has struck a nerve, and it warrants monitoring in the future.