President Donald Trump said Saturday that he believes professional sports can resume “sooner rather than later” and that arenas and stadiums eventually will be filled with fans attending games once the nation’s health improves from the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump made the comments after speaking on a conference call with commissioners from most major sports, including the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.
Trump said at his Saturday news briefing at the White House that the fans “want to get back, they’ve got to get back, too. They want to see basketball, baseball, football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breath nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”
Trump said he wouldn’t predict when pro sports can resume.
“I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later,” he said. “We’re not going to have to have separation for the rest of our time on the planet. We need it for this period of time, but eventually people are going to be able to occupy those seats in arenas next to each other like we have for all of my life and all of your life.”
Trump’s conference call included 12 sports commissioners and top executives from football, baseball, basketball and hockey, as well as Major League Soccer, the WNBA, WWE, the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour, UFC, NASCAR, IndyCar and Breeders’ Cup, according to a White House pool report.
“The president recognized the good work being done by many teams and players to care for their communities, workforces, and fan bases across the nation,” the pool report said. “The commissioners thanked President Trump for his national leadership and for his interest in the sports industry. President Trump encouraged them to continue to support their fellow Americans during this challenging time.”
Trump said current social-distancing measures aimed to slow the spread of the virus eventually will be relaxed, after which people can gather in large groups. More than 300 million Americans now are under some requirements for social distancing.
Trump brought up a conversation he said he had with a man who owns a small restaurant and was concerned about not being able to serve as many customers, and then used it to amplify his point that stadiums eventually can see a return of fans.
“It’s for a short period of time,” he said he told the restaurant owner. “You’ll be back to your number of seats. We can’t limit gatherings]. Otherwise, you’re making everything . . . that means your stadium is half the size of what it was a month ago. The [fans] are going to be close together, but they’re going to be breathing air that’s not infected, that’s not going to kill people.”
Asked if he put a timeline of August as an approximate time when pro sports can resume, Trump said: “I’m not committing to it. We’re going to see where we are. That would be great if we could, but we’re going to be back to good health soon, in my opinion. We’re making a lot of progress. People are staying in their homes. They don’t want to go out. They’re doing what they know is the right thing to do.”
NFL executives said last week that they are planning on opening the regular season as scheduled on Sept. 10, although the team’s chief medical director, Dr. Allen Sills, told NFL.com that the league can’t reopen before testing protocols are introduced that would ensure the safety of all league employees.
When asked if he expects the NFL to resume play in August or September with full stadiums, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his news briefing Saturday that he is “not anticipating that happening in this state.”
“We’ve all seen the headlines 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 to see some spread [of the virus], there’s a boomerang,” he said. “One has to be very cautious here. One has to be careful not to over-promise.”
Newsom said “a well-known athlete just asked me — a football player — if [I expect] it to come back, and I said, ‘I would move very cautiously in that expectation.’
“Our decision 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.
“Right now, I’m focused on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.