Bob Iger vs. Gavin Newsom Is a Battle of Heavyweights

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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.

Written by Ryan Glasspiegel

Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.


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  1. Where I live in Orange County, there are essentially two cities that are keeping us from moving forward; Anaheim and Santa Ana. Both have the highest rates (by a lopsided margin) of “cases” within Orange County.

    Disneyland is in Anaheim.

    Not sure if that Gruesome Newsome is looking at or, what???

  2. Newsom has ruined SF as mayor and now California. Very blue state governors(NY and CA) get to fail miserably and not worry about votes. It’s disheartening. I hope he runs for President(and loses of course) so we can get him out of our hair. Just as long as the next governor is not worse, like maybe someone from the Commie party(not out of the question). I’d take someone just moderate, like Arnold again, to get the state moving again. Though I’m fighting a losing battle as a conservative in California.

  3. I just visited Disney World over the weekend – it is a terrible experience wearing masks everywhere. I was yelled at multiple times at my resort and the parks about not wearing a mask or not wearing it properly. It makes it a No Fun Zone and I will not go again until the mask requirement is gone. With that being said – I have the choice to go or not – most people can make a decision based on their personal comfort level. I would tell Disney (if they would listen) to be leaders in Florida and across the country and just drop masks – it would be a huge statement that we are heading back to normal. If you are scared don’t go or you decide to wear a mask. But my family and I should not be forced to do it. Don’t even get me started about standing in line to buy stuff at the stores there and then standing in line to pay for it – all while wearing a mask. FEARPORN Disney style!

  4. Amen William. Those of us who loved Disney were all willing to buy in to the illusion that Disney was selling. The “magic” such as it was. They have purposefully decided to destroy the illusion. We will not return until the mask mandate is dropped. As it stands now, Disney is nothing more than a very expensive Six Flags.

  5. Well Newsom is a disgusting tyrant and the people of cali deserve what they elect and keep electing .I am third generation cali born and raised socal I left 12 years ago and one of the best decisions ever. The whole legislature is democrat run so when you go to vote keep that in mind. As the saying goes elections have consequences but the people in cali have yet to figure that out..

  6. I’m definitely on Iger’s side here. But how can Disney’s chairman be upset that Disneyland is not open, while Disney-owned media companies are essentially running a 24-hour-a-day campaign against re-opening? I mean, look at this article on ESPN. Dan Mullen merely said he wanted the Swamp to be have fans next Saturday (in line with Florida’s new regulations) and he is getting absolutely destroyed for it on ESPN. Article:

    Disney’s own companies are part of the reason that it’s parks aren’t open. I mean, it’s like the sports reporters arguing that sports absolutely should not be played, and then being surprised when they have to take a paycut or get fired because their company doesn’t get its usual revenue from sports.

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