New York, California, Texas Pols Offer Hope For Return Of Sports
The governors of New York, California and Texas yesterday "expressed support for a return of major professional sports from their coronavirus-related shutdowns in the coming weeks, telling leagues that they should come up with plans if they want to host in those states," according to Oskar Garcia of the N.Y. TIMES. However, a "key caveat for all three states would be having no fans present." New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen. We’re a ready, willing and able partner." Cuomo added that he had been "encouraging the leaders of major sports leagues to tailor their plans to television audiences." Cuomo’s support of sports’ returning could also "create a path" for tennis' U.S. Open, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13, to stay in Queens. Organizers have "considered alternative sites, including options in Florida and California." California Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday said, “Sporting events, pro sports in that first week or so of June without spectators and modifications and very prescriptive conditions, also can begin to move forward." Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott "included sporting events in broader plans for reopening" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/19). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote this is the "clearest sign yet that pro sports at least are going to have the opportunity to give this year a go" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/18).
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH? Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said that he spoke with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "earlier in the day" yesterday. THE ATHLETIC's Nicki Jhabvala noted after "reviewing the league’s extensive COVID-19 protocols that it proposed to players, Polis gave the green light to hold games in Colorado once the sides agree to a deal." Having games in any capacity "appeared to be a longshot just a month ago," and how MLB’s plan unfolds "could dictate the future of the NFL" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/18).
STILL UNDER CAUTION: In Pennsylvania, Zach Sturniolo notes NASCAR "may hit the track" at Pocono Raceway as scheduled in late June if Monroe County "reaches the yellow phase of Governor Tom Wolf’s re-opening strategy in time." As the county "sits in the red, no official decisions have been made, though Gov. Wolf said Friday he had been in discussion with the sport’s sanctioning body" (POCONO RECORD, 5/19).
IMPACT ON CALIFORNIA: California's Newsom said he has spoken with “league representatives from all the major league sports.” In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes Manfred has recently "lobbied Newsom and other governors, assuring them the league could obtain the necessary coronavirus tests without depriving the local community." Manfred also has "arranged to convert the Utah laboratory used for minor league drug tests into a facility designated to process coronavirus tests." Newsom just a week earlier "stopped well short of endorsing the MLB plan to play fan-free games in home ballparks." Shaikin notes the "ultimate decision" on games returning will rest with each county (L.A. TIMES, 5/19).
TRAINING DAYS: In S.F., John Shea notes Newsom's announcement "makes it possible the Bay Area teams would hold workouts at Oracle Park and the Coliseum rather than their Arizona facilities." One source called holding training camps in the Bay Area versus Arizona a “coin flip.” Arizona-based facilities are "more conducive to practicing, but high temperatures in the desert make it less than ideal." The 49ers are "scheduled to open training camp in late July at their Santa Clara facility and face the Raiders in their first preseason home game Aug. 21." Newsom on May 7 said that fans "wouldn’t be permitted into stadiums or arenas until a vaccine for the coronavirus emerges" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/19).
FINDING THE POSITIVES: In Houston, Brian Smith writes, "You take what you can get during these unbelievable times." The "return of 'professional sporting events in Texas' is the best news this sports columnist has heard in a while." At a time when good news "feels golden," the three most populous U.S. states "agreeing on the same thing right now surely represents something positive" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/19). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes if Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick "wants to show the type of leadership that people will have no choice but to respect, he needs to be the first one through the gate to have his ticket scanned." On May 15, Patrick made a "well-reasoned case to have fans return to sporting events in an op-ed published in The Dallas Morning News." He estimates a venue "could fill 30 percent of its capacity." Engel: "We don’t need sports. We need signs that we can gather in the same spot without any additional fear." Fans going back to sporting events is a "sign that a degree of safety is back" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/19).