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MLB officials were forced to indefinitely suspend the 2020 season last month as officials around the country enacted shelter-in-place orders and bans on mass gatherings. While it’s unclear when it will be safe for sports leagues to resume play, Fauci said MLB could eventually play games without crowds in order to limit the risk of infection.
“I think it’s reasonable,” Fauci said during an appearance on the YES Network. “You could either have a situation where you get the group of players and you put them in a few cities, you make sure they’re not infected, you test them so that they don’t infect each other and you have baseball, as much as it’s tough to say, it a spectator-less environment.”
League executives are considering several paths to resuming the 2020 season, including the possibility of playing games under strict monitoring in a single state, such as Arizona. The season was originally scheduled to begin March 26.
Fauci, who is considered the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases and has played a key role in the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, acknowledged that playing games without fans would be an adjustment.
“The revenues are not going to be the same as when you have a packed stadium like Nats Stadium in Washington where I go to, but I think having them play on television is certainly better than nothing,” he added.
MLB was one of several U.S. sports leagues that suspended play in March. The prolonged delay has sparked fears that MLB teams may soon be forced to cut pay or furlough employees until play can resume. The NBA is withholding 25 percent of its players’ salaries starting on May 15.
In another potential restart scenario, President Trump posed last week that games could be held with fewer fans in attendance in order to maintain social distancing protocols. Fauci said that scenario is possible in some states if fans are adequately spaced and provided with protective gear such as face masks.
“I think quite likely, although it’s always dangerous to predict, I think it’s more likely that you’re going to have more of a television baseball than a spectator baseball,” Fauci added.