NTWAB Addresses Continuing Denial of Media Access to Tracks in Kentucky
Media have not been allowed access to race tracks in Kentucky since March. On June 22, NTWAB President Tom Law sent a letter to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear requesting the loosening of restrictions to the state's Healthy at Work Requirements for Horse Racing that were issued in early May in advance of the start of the Churchill spring-summer meeting. Last Saturday, the State of New York, where covid-19 has done much more damage than in Kentucky, and NYRA allowed a limited number of media to personally cover the Belmont Stakes card in a safe and professional manner. President Law has requested similar treatment in Kentucky.
President Law's letter to Gov. Beshear follows.
June 22, 2020
Governor Andy Beshear
700 Capital Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, KY 40601
Good afternoon and greetings from Saratoga Springs. I’m writing on behalf of our organization of more than 150 print, online and broadcast professional journalists who cover Thoroughbred horse racing in your state and across the country.
We formally request that you reconsider the stipulation in the Healthy at Work Requirements for Horse Racing issued in May that prohibit fans and outside media from racetracks in Kentucky. The stipulation significantly impacts how members of the media do their job covering Kentucky’s signature industry.
The news media have been determined to be essential workers in many states, including Kentucky where they have covered your daily press briefings during the Covid-19 health crisis.
The journalists from Kentucky and other states need proper access to continue to do their jobs on site at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Ellis Park, Kentucky Downs and other racetracks. The precedent has been set already; in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo cleared the New York Racing Association to allow the media to cover last weekend’s Belmont Stakes.
Belmont Park, located not far from New York City and the hardest hit area in the country, allowed a small group of 15 reporters and 15 photographers inside the facility to cover the day’s races.
I was fortunate to be one of the 15 print/online reporters invited to attend and can attest to the importance of media being on hand to document one of the sport’s signature events. I made the 3 1/2-hour trip from my home in upstate New York to Long Island to cover the race, followed specified guidelines, received a temperature check at the stable gate and was granted access to portions of the grandstand and clubhouse and the barn area to properly do my job.
The racetrack handled the media in a safe and professional manner, limiting access to certain areas while allowing it in others. Everyone from reporters to trainers to jockeys practiced social distancing, wore masks and followed other safety protocols. The day went as smooth as expected thanks to these guidelines.
Churchill Downs will soon finish its historic spring-summer meeting and this weekend’s Stephen Foster Day program is annually one of the highlights of the racing year in Kentucky. The media should be granted access and by the terms set by your office and Churchill Downs. As a former 15-year resident of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky I can attest to the importance of these events on the multi-billion dollar Thoroughbred industry and to the men and women who cover it professionally for news outlets on a daily basis.
We appreciate your time and consideration of this important matter. I can be reached at (859) 396-9407 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.
(Introduction by Dick Downey)