President Donald Trump talked to many U.S. pro sports leaders about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, saying he was looking forward to the resumption of competitions “as soon as we can.”
“I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said later in a briefing at the White House. “I think it’s ... whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”
A person with direct knowledge of the call said Trump believes the NFL season — scheduled to begin Sept. 10 — will start on time with fans in seats. But that seemed too optimistic for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was asked if he thought the NFL season would start on time.
“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said.
The NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball were all represented by their commissioners — Adam Silver, Gary Bettman, Roger Goodell and Rob Manfred, respectively. None of those leagues released public comment.
A second person with knowledge of the call said some commissioners, Silver included, stressed to Trump that they are working on multiple season-resumption plans but cautioned nothing can move forward without clearance from public health officials. The people spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because no discussion from the call was to be revealed publicly.
Others on the call included PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, UFC President Dana White, World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert and Breeders’ Cup President Drew Fleming.
National Women's Soccer League Commissioner Lisa Baird was not included in the call, and that league was not pleased. “As a leader in women’s professional sports, the NWSL would welcome the chance to participate in any future discussions between the top sports leagues in the U.S. and the White House," the league said.
Trump addressed Little League players on Saturday, tweeting to tell them, “hang in there! We will get you back out on the fields, and know that you will be playing baseball soon. We will get through this together, and bats will be swinging before you know it."
Trump said the need for social distancing is affecting his 14-year-old son, Barron. The president described his son as a good athlete and soccer fan.
“We have to get back,” Trump said. “We have to get back. Remember that. We have to get back and we have to get back soon.”
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer, AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi, AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Baseball Writers Ronald Blum and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.