In a Saturday conference call with commissioners of major sports leagues covering how to approach the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, President Donald Trump said he believes the 2020 NFL season will start on time in September, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski. Additionally, Trump reportedly hopes fans will be able to attend events at arenas and stadiums by August and September.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on the call that pro sports leagues would “love to lead the way” in boosting a struggling economy once public health officials give the “all clear” for seasons to resume, according to the ESPN report.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere confirmed the call took place but did not reveal any additional details about what Trump and the commissioners discussed.
Unfortunately for anyone stuck inside desperately hoping for live sports to return, Trump’s optimism is misguided. As his own coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said last month, “You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.”
Upon hearing Trump’s comments, California Gov. Gavin Newsom shot down the idea of NFL games in his state proceeding as normal.
His full response (via ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry):
“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state. Let me tell you why. We’ve all seen the headlines in the last couple of days in Asia where they were opening up certain businesses and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting see some spread. There’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here. One has to be careful not to overpromise. It’s interesting. I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and in the NFL. They’ve been asking me — in fact, a well-known athlete just asked me, a football player, if he [should expect] to come back. I said, ‘I would move very cautiously in that expectation,’ so look, I’m not here to second-guess anybody, but I am here to say this. Our decision on that basis, at least here in the state of California, will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our capacity to meet this moment, bend the curve and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that’s appropriate. And right now, I’m just focused on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”
Trump’s belief is also at odds with the NFL’s own chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, who said widespread testing must become available before the league can proceed with a new season.
“As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport,” Sills told NFL.com’s Judy Battista earlier this week. “Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”
And then there’s the problem with Trump speculating on anything related to COVID-19. Consider some of his previous public statements:
Maybe Trump sticks with that September projection for the start of the NFL season. Or he pushes it back to October. Or he decides he never liked football, a very bad sport, unlike golf, which is a very, very good sport, the best sport, and many people are saying that more and more lately.
The truth is the vast majority of major pro sports leagues are going to be shut down for an indefinite amount of time. Simply giving a random date on the calendar won’t change anything.
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