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Sports Leaders Shouldn't Rush To Open Arenas, Stadiums

chrismetcalfTV via Flickr

So, we know that we’re not supposed to venture out of our homes unnecessarily. But on those occasions when you have to find toilet paper, fill a prescription or pick up food from the drive-through window, how do you feel?

In this new world of COVID-19, are you keeping your proper social distance? Are you wearing a mask? Do you feel safe?


And, as an addendum to the last question, when do you think you will feel comfortable going to the grocery store, the pharmacy or to the local restaurant?

Will you ever be OK in a department store, a movie theater or a stadium? Whether you can sit in the seats of a high school gym, a race track or a 70,000 seat stadium and not worry is the central concern of conference officials, athletic directors and league commissioners nationwide.

A group of those leaders, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, met electronically late last week to discuss that very issue with President Trump. 

Trump emerged from the meeting expressing hope that fans will be back in stands in August and September, the month he wants the NFL to return to action.

But the commissioners don’t have the luxury of Trump’s single-minded obliviousness. They should have social consciences, which should point them toward prudence and restraint.

Silver, whose league was the first to call a halt to operations last month, reportedly told Trump that he wants the NBA to be the first to return. His league was heading towards its conclusion and Silver no doubt desperately wants to salvage whatever he can of the season.

But Silver also reportedly said that the NBA’s return would only happen once the nation’s top public health officials said it would be safe to do so. 

That is the prudent stance. Silver and his colleagues will be walking a very dangerous tightrope, when play resumes.

On one hand, the leagues and colleges are the most visible gears of a multi-billion dollar machine that not only employs players and coaches and support personnel.

While millions sit at home and watch games on television, there are vendors and ticket takers and groundskeepers and security employees who depend on those games to sustain themselves. They need the income that arises from sporting events to stay afloat.

At the same time, the commissioners and leaders must be concerned with the idea of having thousands of people congregate in confined spaces while the virus is months away from being controlled and a potential vaccine is even further away.

And that alarm should be particularly acute with Goodell and Manfred and commissioners of major college football conferences.

Their games have tens of thousands of spectators. None of them can dream of restarting their respective leagues until the threat of having those fans carry the virus back to hundreds of communities is minimal.

Indeed, until going to a game feels as normal as going to the market or to the movies, we’ll just have to wait for slam dunks and home runs and touchdowns.

And that’s how I see it for this week.




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