More governors talk favorably of pro sports returning — with COVID-19 precautions

Dave Uram
May 19, 2020 - 10:04 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The majority of professional sporting events, minus a select few of them, have been on hold since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. That includes three of the four major sports in America— basketball, hockey and baseball — which are currently supposed to be in season. 

And while there’s no exact timeline for Joel Embiid’s next block, Carter Hart’s next save, or Bryce Harper’s next home run again, some governors are beginning to make encouraging comments that those things could come in that not-too-distant future.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a media briefing on Monday that he has been encouraging teams to plan televised games without fans.

“New York state will help those major franchises do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football — whoever can reopen, we’re a ready, willing and able partner.” 

Cuomo said he, personally, wants to watch the Buffalo Bills. “I think this is in the best interest of all the people and in the best interest of the state of New York,” he added.

To him, the economic feasibility of leagues holding games without spectators is the key to their return. While Cuomo says he has enjoyed seeing old games on TV, he’s like most fans: He would prefer live sports.

“My opinion is they have to do a ramp up anyway, right. They have to start. They have to have a camp. They have to go through administrative procedures. … If they can make the numbers work, I say great. Come back, the state will work with you,” he said. “Because, remember, government rules right now could stop a team coming back, right? What’s essential? What’s not essential? So I’m saying the state will work with them to come back.”

Cuomo has no apparent timeline in mind, but other states have given ballpark estimates (no pun intended) for when their teams might be able to return.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated that, if public health numbers keep going in the right direction, pro sports could could start back up as early as the first week of June — without spectators and with “very prescriptive conditions.”

When asked for clarification on that, Newsom responded, “Deep conditions, deep modifications, deep stipulations, in terms of protecting not only the players but, more broadly, their support staff.

“Again, we’re not talking about fans in this respect. We’re just talking about the opportunity to begin to work with county health directors and work with the state to begin the process of organizing around what that may, or may not, look like. And so, we’ve been moving in that direction.

He says his administration has been talking with representatives from all the major sports leagues, and the Western Governors Association, about guidelines and best practices.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott named May 31 as a start date. “That includes pro golf, auto racing, baseball, softball, tennis, football and basketball,” he said.

And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf gave a tepid endorsement of a NASCAR race scheduled for June 25 through June 28 at Pocono Raceway. 

“If Monroe County goes to yellow before that race happens and NASCAR, in fact, has the competition without spectators in the stands, and they follow other guidelines to keep the competitors safe," he said, "yeah."

NASCAR’s The Real Heroes 400 took place in South Carolina on Sunday, in front of no spectators.

UFC, WWE and golf events with no fans have already occurred in Florida. Arizona is open for pro sports as well.