Trump Pushes For Sports Restart, With Fans Present, By August
President Trump said that he "hopes to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August and September," according to sources cited by Schefter & Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. Trump in a White House briefing Saturday said, "I want fans back in the arenas." He told league commissioners during a conference call earlier in the day that he "recognizes 'the good work being done by many teams and players' to care for their communities and fan bases dealing with the outbreak." Sources said that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on the call said that the leagues were the "first to shut down and that they would love to lead the way in restarting the economy once there is an 'all clear' from public health officials." Sources added that Trump raised the idea of leagues "working together to lobby for tax incentives that used to exist for entertainment expenses, such as the ability to deduct concessions and tickets from taxes." The call included major sports commissioners and top execs from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, NASCAR, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup (ESPN.com, 4/4). USA TODAY's Bell & Zillgitt cited a source as saying that Trump on the call also "urged the NFL to continue with plans for its 'virtual' NFL draft" on April 23-25 (USA TODAY, 4/4).
NOT SO CONFIDENT: California Gov. Gavin Newsom responded to Trump's comments about the NFL starting in the fall, saying, "I'm not anticipating that happening in this state. ... 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." Newsom referenced COVID-19 resurgences in Asia and said, "We have to be careful not to overpromise." In L.A., J. Brady McCollough noted Trump did not commit to a timeline for sports leagues to resume, saying, "I can't tell you a date, but I think it's going to be sooner rather than later" (L.A. TIMES, 4/5). In San Jose, Nico Savidge wrote Newsom's warning "likely wraps in California's five MLB teams as well as its three NFL franchises" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 4/5). Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “I would love to see sports back, [to] help with cabin fever. But this is not about hopes and dreams and aspirations and what you would like to see.” In N.Y., Aaron Feis writes Cuomo "didn’t dismiss the idea outright" that sports could return by August, but "urged caution and attention to those who know best" (N.Y. POST, 4/6).
NCAA NOT INCLUDED: YAHOO SPORTS' Pete Thamel wrote Trump's call initiated the collision between sports and politics, but there was a "curious omission." Of all the commissioners he spoke with, there were "no leaders from the collegiate sports landscape." The absence of college football from Trump's purview was "most curious because he'd staked clear territory in the sport recently" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/4). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Schefter & Wojnarowski noted Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to "reassure Little League baseball players that their season will resume soon" (ESPN.com, 4/4). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Radnofsky, Lucey & Beaton noted Trump's call was "intended to focus on leagues' and teams' roles as employers," but it "veered into a discussion of a resumption of the sports calendar that was abruptly ripped up in March." A White House official said that a few commissioners "suggested mid-to-late May as a starting point for live events without spectators." The official "did not identify which participants had made that suggestion." Before the call, the official had "emphasized that it would be chiefly focused on jobs, and how owners were working with their workforces in sports and their non-sports businesses." The focus on jobs was "why other sports chiefs" such as NCAA and USOPC leaders "were not invited to the call" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/5).
WISHFUL THINKING? In S.F., Ann Killion wrote sports getting back on schedule "seems like more magical thinking given the dangers posed by the coronavirus crisis." Sports resuming "would be a sign of recovery" and of "optimism." Killion: "But only when it's safe. Only when it makes sense. ... August? September? How exactly could that work?" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/5). NEWSDAY's David Lennon wrote under the header, "President Trump's Message On Return Of Sports Doesn't Seem Very Realistic" (4/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote medical officials are "going to decide a lot of this, and right now, there are far too many unknowns, and stakes that are far too high, to make a bold plan or set a clear date" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/4). SI.com's Michael McCann wrote under the header, "Analyzing The Legal Hurdles Of Bringing Back Sports." While the government can stop leagues from playing games, it "can't force them to play" (SI.com, 4/4). Meanwhile, in Houston, Brian Smith went with: "America Needs Trump's Latest COVID-19 Prediction To Be Right" (4/5).