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As pro sports leagues explore paths to resume play during the coronavirus pandemic, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has volunteered his state as a refuge for teams that are unable to operate in their home markets.
The NBA and MLB are in active discussions with their players unions to resume play, even as public health guidance and the varying framework of shelter-in-place orders make it unlikely that states will be ready for sports at the same time. DeSantis said Florida will accept any team that wants to train or play games.
"All professional sports are welcome here for practicing and for playing," DeSantis said at a news conference in Tallahassee on Wednesday. "What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won't let them operate, we'll find a place for you here in the state of Florida."
Florida officials declared sports an “essential service” in April and allowed WWE to hold its WrestleMania show on a closed set. UFC held a pay-per-view event in Jacksonville last Saturday and has two additional events planned in Florida this week.
DeSantis’ declaration came one day after a similar announcement from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who said pro sports leagues could resume play in the state by as early as Saturday, so long as fans aren’t in attendance. Several leagues, including MLB and NBA, have considered playing out their seasons in states, such as Arizona and Florida, where restrictions have been relaxed.
Pro sports came to halt in mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible for leagues to hold events without endangering public health. The NBA is slowly reopening training facilities in certain states for limited individual workouts, while MLB owners approved a plan that calls for the 2020 season to begin in early July.
"We want to have you here," DeSantis added. "We want to have the basketball practicing again. We would love to have the Major League Baseball."