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President Trump said Thursday that U.S. sports leagues will likely resume in a “made for television” format in the coming weeks as part of efforts to restart the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump said the guidance was based on discussions with top sports executives and commissioners named to an advisory group in the administration’s “Open Our Country” task force. The sports council had its first conference call Wednesday and discussed preliminary plans to resume activities following an industry-wide shut down in mid-March.
“Many of them are going to be starting without the fans, so it’ll be made for television,” Trump said during a White House briefing on coronavirus response efforts. “The good old days, made for television. We’ll go that way and then the fans will start coming in, maybe they’ll be separated by two seats, and then ultimately we want to have packed arenas. When the virus is gone, we’re going to have packed arenas and we’re going to be back to enjoying sports the way they’re supposed to be.”
The sports advisory council includes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, UFC President Dana White and several other top executives. Some individual team owners, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, were also included.
Sporting events are just one form of mass gatherings that were effectively or explicitly banned as state and city officials enacted shelter-in-place orders. Trump said businesses such as sports leagues and restaurants will eventually be able to resume normal activities as the pandemic dissipates.
“Our normal is if you have 100,000 people in an Alabama football game or 110,000 to be exact, we want 110,000 people there,” Trump said. “We want every seat occupied. Normal is not going to be where you have 50,000 people.”
Trump detailed a potential sports restart as part of the White House’s broader plan to enact a science-based ramp-up of economic activity. The president said he anticipated that 29 states would be ready to return to work “relatively soon,” though harder-hit states such as New York and New Jersey were still weeks away.
The NBA became the first U.S. sports league to suspend its season March 12 after a player tested positive for coronavirus. Nearly all other sports leagues enacted similar postponements within 24 hours and have been at a standstill ever since.
Sports leagues that were in-season have expressed optimism about resuming play later this summer, though exact restart dates have yet to be determined.