Trump in talks with US pro sports leaders

US President Donald Trump has held a phone hook up with leaders of the country's pro sports leagues.
US President Donald Trump has held a phone hook up with leaders of the country's pro sports leagues.

President Donald Trump has met by phone with many US pro sports leaders to discuss how the industry has been affected by the global coronavirus pandemic, saying he's 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 discussions said Trump believes the NFL season - scheduled to begin on September 10 - will start on time with fans in seats.

But that seemed too optimistic for California Governor Gavin Newsom, who was asked if he thought the NFL season would start on time.

"I'm not anticipating that happening in this state," said Newsom, whose state has three NFL franchises.

The United States has the world's highest number of known cases of COVID-19, the flu-like respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 306,000 people have tested positive in the United States and over 8,300 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

The NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball were all represented on the call by their commissioners - Adam Silver, Gary Bettman, Roger Goodell and Rob Manfred, respectively. None of the leagues released any immediate public comment about the call.

It's understood some commissioners, Silver among them, stressed to Trump that they are working on multiple plans to resume their seasons but cautioned that none of those plans can be enacted without clearance from public health officials.

Others on the call included PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, UFC President Dana White, World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and Breeders' Cup President Drew Fleming.

The NBA was the first of the major U.S. sports leagues to shut down on March 11, doing so after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Other leagues quickly followed, and hundreds of games have already been lost. The NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments were cancelled along with virtually every other college athletic event for the remainder of the academic year; major events like golf's Masters tournament, the Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500 have been postponed; and thousands of arena employees have lost work because of the shutdown of the sports and entertainment industries.

Australian Associated Press