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After call with sports leaders, Trump says he can’t commit to date for having fans in stadiums

"But I think it's going to be sooner rather than later. We're not going to have separation for the rest of our times on the planet."

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing Saturday. Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

After holding a conference call with the commissioners and top executives of 13 professional sports leagues, President Donald Trump said Saturday at a White House press briefing that he can’t commit to having fans back in stadiums at a specific date amid the novel coronavirus pandemic but pushed for sports to return as soon as possible.

“These are all the great leaders of sport, and they want to get back,” Trump said. “They’ve got to get back. They can’t do this. Their sports weren’t designed for it. The whole concept of our nation wasn’t designed for it. We’re going to have to get back. We want to get back soon, very soon. . . . Absolutely I want fans back in the arenas . . . whenever we’re ready – I mean, as soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. . . .


“I can’t tell you a date. But I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later. We’re not going to have separation for the rest of our times 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.”

Later, when asked specifically about an August return, which would be in time for the beginning of college football season, Trump said he couldn’t guarantee that.

“I’m not committing to it. We’re going to see where we are,” he said. “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.”


Trump addressed the issue a few hours after he spoke with leaders from the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, WNBA, Major League Soccer, WWE, the PGA and LPGA tours, UFC, NASCAR, IndyCar and the Breeders’ Cup, according to a White House pool report. Citing unidentified people familiar with what was said during the call, ESPN reported that Trump told the executives that he believes the NFL season should start on time in September and that he hopes fans will be back in sports venues by August and September.

Asked earlier Saturday whether he expected the NFL to return as scheduled, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said, “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.” NFL stadiums drew an average of more than 66,000 fans last season.


“One has to be very cautious here; one has to be careful not to over-promise,” Newsom said. “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 expects 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.”


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