First, let me start with this, and its sad I have to add this in. This is not about politics. When the President meets with nearly every top official of all the major sports leagues in our country, it gets covered. So, spare me your opinion on President Trump or his handling of this entire situation, because this is a sports story and its on a sports site.
The newsiest soundbite if you will, and we don’t have tape just reports about what was said, is that President Trump feels the NFL should kick-off as normal. Even that was posed as a “hope” and not a pinpoint demand. August and September were brought up as realistic for fans being permitted to get back to arenas and stadiums around the country.
Our country faces some challenges for something like this that others may not encounter, at least not on the same scale. Forgive me as I’m going to slightly head off into a bit of a civics lesson, unfortunately its sorely needed for many. Everyone knows we have 50 states and most of us have heard of the independence of those states to self-govern, but at this point I write this to reinforce, its more than lip service.
When you see maps of the country and notice there are still 4 or 5 states not enforcing a stay at home directive, its important to understand the President and his task force have recommended that everyone in the country operate under these recommendations, but the States have rights.
If you actually listen anymore to the press conferences or read reports about them, you hear things like “we’d like” or “it’s our recommendation” often, and the reason for that is quite simple. The President does not have the power to supersede the States from making decisions for their own governance.
So, when you get back to national sports, you can see where this would start to become hairy. Gavin Newsome, the Governor of California has already stated for instance he doesn’t see mass gatherings taking place in California by the timeframe outlined by the President.
“So look, I’m not here to second-guess anybody, but I am here to say this, 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 to confidently determine whether that’s appropriate. And right now I’m just focused on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.” Newsome said.
Mr. Newsome only speaks for California of course, but his sentiment is very much echoed by other leaders, including the President himself who in yesterday’s presser refused to name a date and stated he put forward August/September as a goal, not a demand.
All of this points to sports either simply being off through at least this summer or possibly playing all contests in empty neutral sites in cleared areas to restrict travel.
Adam Silver of the NBA on the call reportedly mentioned his sport being the first to close up shop, and they would like to be part of signaling the country is back in business. A nice thought but how realistic it is remains to be seen.
The bottom line remains clear, sports have significant hurdles to clear before any of them can resume play, just as the country faces questions about how to return to business as normal. Normal, there’s a word that had better have some flexibility, because who knows what will look “normal” as we move forward.
The President also reiterated his sentiment that the cure can not be worse than the problem. He’s right. And we as a country will surely have to decide where that balance is. You can’t just shut down this much of the country and expect things to be ok indefinitely.
Pressed on the possibility of creating a second task force for getting the country opened back up, the President said he was thinking about it. I suggest he needs to do it, and we all need to understand that waiting for 100% eradication is not going to happen. Eventually a percentage of those who have had the virus combined with treatments and testing will create enough of a work force to begin the process of starting the wheels turning again. How that looks, and when it happens needs to be based on science, but hoping for, or looking to, a timeframe does no harm.
We must be careful together. We must not rush back, simply because we want to, but we must understand also that these decisions will and have been based on the most up to day information available.
For sports, all it will take to prevent “business as usual” is one home city that can’t get to “all clear”. The nature of something like this will make that difficult beyond many of our imaginations.
Buckle up, this could be an incredibly long ride, and quite honestly, sports may not look the same again. We might lose teams; some could lose TV contracts or at the very least lose money from those contracts. Contracts to players that have been committed to could be in jeopardy. Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees aren’t closing up shop, but a team like Tampa who were already not satisfied with where they are or the support they receive could very well push to move.
Right now, we need to drop our civic oriented rooting interests and realize it’s time to root together, root for our country, our world. We will survive this together. We’ll beat this if only because for the vast majority of those who contract this will not die, if we want our businesses, and that is exactly what sports franchises are, to survive we’re going to need to get creative.