In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the sports world was shut down in one fell swoop in mid-March. Roughly nine weeks later, we had the chance to witness a weekend that included the return of German professional soccer, NASCAR, and a live charity skins match featuring some of the top golfers in the world. It was a huge weekend for sports fans and it was capped off with a resounding statement from the President of the United States.
During NBC Sports' live broadcast of the TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match featuring four of the PGA Tour's best, President Donald Trump unexpectedly called in, leading to an impromptu interview with NBC's Mike Tirico. The country's commander-in-chief was clear on where he stands with the return of sports.
“We want to get sports back, Trump told Tirico. “We miss sports. We need sports in terms of the psyche of our country. We want big big stadiums loaded with people. We don’t want to have 15,000 people watching Alabama-LSU, as an example.”
Major League Baseball has an opportunity to be the first of the four major professional sports leagues in North America to return to on-field action. MLB is eyeing a return in the coming weeks with a second "spring" training in June and a regular season start in early July. MLB and the players union are currently negotiating an agreement to get a plan in place so a baseball season could be played in 2020.
The safety of the players and non-playing personnel are obviously atop list of priorities in MLB's initial plan. At least from the outset, MLB games would be played without fans in attendance.
“We really want to see it get back to normal,” Trump told Tirico. “So when you have all of those thousands, tens of thousands of people going to majors and going to golf tournaments, we want them to have that same experience. We don’t want them having to wear masks and be doing what we’ve been doing for the last number of months. That’s not getting back to normal.
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“We want to be back to normal where you have the big crowds and they’re practically standing on top of each other and they’re enjoying themselves. Not where they’re worried. But in the meantime, they do the social distancing.”
MLB claims they will lose $640,000 for each game played without fans in attendance. Current negotiations between the two sides revolve around coming to terms on an economic structure that's the most beneficial for both sides.
An obvious fix to MLB's issues with lost revenue will be getting fans back in ballparks as soon as possible. However, President Trump's optimism is not shared by all public health officials.
“I would love to be able to have all sports back,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told the New York Times in an interview in late April. “But as a health official and a physician and a scientist, I have to say, right now, when you look at the country, we’re not ready for that yet.”
Dr. Fauci is one of President Trump's top public health experts in his coronavirus task force.
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