Cuomo Focuses on Sports as NYC Summer School Numbers Triple

Ridley Goodside wears a goggles and a filtration mask to protect himself from exposure to coronavirus as he reads on the grass marked for proper social distancing at Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Monday. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

MANHATTAN (CN) — On a day of grim data from city schools, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his desire to see sports come back to his pandemic-ravaged state, saying they could bring an economic boost while also entertaining fans still at home.

“Some sports franchises can make this work easier than others,” he said from Long Island, where the state’s daily press conference was held. “It depends on the economics of that sport and how much is determined by selling seats in the arena or the stadium. But to the extent they can start, I encourage them to start.”

A day earlier in Buffalo, the governor said he wanted to watch the Bills — in 2019, the beleaguered NFL team had a 20-year high of 10 season wins. Cuomo on Tuesday said leagues can count on the state for support.

“When a team plays, even if there’s no one in the stands, it gets broadcast and that gives people at home entertainment value, something to participate in. Another reason, frankly, to stay home as opposed to go out, and staying home is good right now.”

In New York state, 352,845 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 while 22,843 have died, according to state data.

Marc Edelman, a law professor at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business and consultant on legal issues in sports, said in a phone interview Tuesday that whether sports return depends heavily on collective-bargaining agreements between leagues and players’ unions. 

“One thing that Cuomo perhaps has not fully thought through is the reality that players are unionized for premier sports leagues, and merely because we want to watch them play on television doesn’t mean that the player is necessarily … [going to] want to take those risks,” Edelman said. 

Major League Baseball, for example, may ask its players to take a pay cut because of the lower ticket revenue this year — something Edelman said may not go over well. He said baseball is likeliest to come back this year if players and the league agree that their participation is optional.

“Outside of the rookies and very young players, most of these athletes earn the kind of salary where they’re able to make the choice of whether to participate or not,” Edelman said.

He did note that the pandemic has accelerated a trend of increased revenue from broadcast rights, licensing and gaming rights, particularly for football, and that gate sales and concessions make up a smaller chunk of the revenue pie than they used to when it comes to sports. In that sense, playing without fans is not necessarily economically infeasible.

“It would be critical that the teams in the league overall hire experts on infectious diseases, to help keep the players safe. And much like with any other business that’s operating, it’s going to be very important that the sports leagues listen to science and listen to experts,” Edelman added.

Anna Louisa, 18, receives her school laptop for home study at the Lower East Side Preparatory School on March 19, as coronavirus restrictions shuttered classrooms throughout New York City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

In a separate press conference from Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio focused on the more somber picture painted by newly released summer school estimates.

As compared with 15,500 students last year, according to a tweet from NY1 education reporter Jillian Jorgensen, some 67,000 New York City children in grades three through eight are now required or recommended to continue virtual classes this summer.

Looking for a silver lining Tuesday, de Blasio emphasized the flexibility of distance learning. “You can do it different times a day, you can do it weekends, you can do it summer, and so it’s going to give us that catch up opportunity,” he said. “Unquestionably more kids need the help than would have been true in a traditional year. But we also have tools to work with to get that done.”

Taking into account the 83,000 high school students and 27,700 special education students, as well as those with individualized education programs, a total of 178,000 New York City school students need summer school this year. That’s out of 1.1 million public school students in the city. 

“It’s going to be a huge effort, an unprecedented effort, and the goal is simple and we believe we can attain the goal,” de Blasio said. “Give every child what they need.”

Education Chancellor Richard Carranza said kids in grades three through eight will attend summer school virtually four days a week for six weeks. High schoolers who need summer school will tune in five days a week for six weeks. The curriculum will include support from guidance counselors as well as virtual field trips, virtual social clubs, and educational programming on TV and radio, the chancellor and the mayor said. 

Public schools in New York City have been closed since March 16. Internet and tablet or computer access has inhibited some students’ ability to tune in to online lessons.  The mayor said Tuesday that the city has delivered 284,000 iPads to public school students and that another 5,000 are on the way. New York expects to eventually distribute 297,000 devices to students learning from home, the mayor said.

Meanwhile the city has counted 191,650 Covid-19 cases so far, as well as 20,887 confirmed and probable deaths. 

De Blasio also called Tuesday for the state to authorize line-of-duty benefits for the families of city workers who died of Covid-19. 

“The way that we’ll really have both the immediate and the lasting impact for families is to do it through the state legislature,” he said. “If we sense there’s going to be a meaningful delay there and there’s other things we can do, of course I’ll look for every way to help these families. But I think this is something that will get real immediate attention from our colleagues at the state level,” he said.

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