Trump says NFL season should start on time amid coronavirus crisis

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President Trump is ready for some football.

During a Saturday conference call with the commissioners of major professional sports leagues, Trump expressed optimism fans would fill venues again as soon as August and the NFL season would begin on time in September, according to ESPN.

But, later in the day at a press briefing, Trump did not cite any research from medical experts studying the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the impression his message is more based in hope.

“I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later,” Trump said. “We are not going to have to have separation for the rest of our time on this planet. We need it for this period of time, but eventually people will be able to occupy their seats in arenas next to each other.”

The call included the heads of the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, PGA, LPGA, WWE, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders Cup. The NCAA was omitted.

“They want to get back. They’ve got to get back. They can’t do this,” Trump said. “Their sports weren’t designed for it.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom painted a different picture in his Saturday briefing, saying he does not anticipate the NFL opening on time with fans in the stands in his state. Three NFL franchises are based in California.

The league’s schedule is due for release in May, after it holds a remote draft April 23-25, with facilities likely to remain closed.

“One has to be careful not to overpromise,” Newsom said. “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.”

Trump owns more than a dozen golf courses across the nation and has a complicated history with the NFL, dating to his failed bid for team ownership in the 1980s.

“People want to see … their sports and go out onto their golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air,” Trump said.

Trump suggested leagues cooperate to lobby for reinstatement of tax incentives for entertainment expenses, allowing the deduction of concessions and tickets, according to ESPN. The idea is to encourage leisure spending in a difficult economy.

The NBA, which was the first league to suspend play, would like to take the lead in restarting the economy after public health officials approve, commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call.

“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,” a White House statement read.

Filed under 4/4/20